American football players in action on stadiumSchools may have fewer choices in purchasing cheerleading uniforms in the future.  Varsity Brands, Inc. (“Varsity”) and Star Athletica, LLC (“Star”) have been battling over the design of cheerleading uniforms and whether the designs of the uniforms are protectable under the Copyright Act.  For background information about the case, please view my previous blog post.

On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. (Case No. 15-866) that Varsity’s designs might be eligible for trade secret protections.  The Court found that decorative elements of cheerleading uniforms could be protected by copyright law if they “can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article.”
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cheerleadersWhat makes a cheerleading uniform, a cheerleading uniform? Stripes? Zigzags? What turns a person in a crop top and skirt into a recognizable cheerleader? These are the questions that the United States Supreme Court will likely address in Star Athletica LLC v. Varsity Brands Inc. (Case No. 15-866), which it granted certiorari on May 2, 2016.

The case started when Varsity Brands, Inc. (“Varsity”) believed that Star Athletica, LLC (“Star”) was selling cheerleading uniforms very similar to Varsity’s. Varsity has multiple copyrights on graphic designs that appear on its cheerleading uniforms and warm ups. Star, however, does not believe that the graphic designs for cheerleading uniforms can be protected under the Copyright Act.
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