Star Atheltica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: May 2, 2016
  • Case #: 15-866
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 799 F.3d 468 (6th Cir. 2015)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the standard analytical test is the appropriate test to determine which portions of an article can be copyrighted?

Respondent is the manufacturer of athletic clothing, including cheerleading uniforms. In order to design the clothing, the respondent employs designers. Respondent copyrighted several of their design sketches of uniforms. This suit was initiated when respondent noticed petitioner using some of their sketches or some that appeared to be similar. Certiorari was granted to resolve a circuit split regarding the applicable test to determine which portions of an article can be copyrighted. Petitioner is arguing for the implementation of the standard analytical test due to an increase in predictability throughout the circuits. The Sixth Circuit rejected this test and created their own test for determining when a copyright violation exists. As of now, there are ten distinct tests in the circuit courts for making this determination. A uniform test will resolve this tension among the courts. Additionally, the test created by the Sixth Circuit leads to inconsistent results, creates a conflict with the long standing tradition of refusing to issue copyrights for clothing, and produces results in conflict with the Congressional purpose of creating consistent case law within the scope of copyright protection. Petitioner also suggests that the Sixth Circuit approach is inconsistent with the value the Copyright office has placed on clothing designs.

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