Courthouse Steps: Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands

Intellectual Property and Litigation Practice Group Teleforum

Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands concerns the copyrightability of elements on cheerleading uniforms. Appropriately, given that the case involves costuming, it is being argued on Halloween, October 31, 2016. At issue in the case is whether the chevrons, zig zags, and stripes that are standard elements on cheerleading uniforms are protected by copyright, or are unprotectable “functional” elements of a cheerleading uniform. Star Athletica argues that these standard elements are functional given that cheerleading uniforms would not be cheerleading uniforms without them. Varsity Brands argues that the elements are conceptually separable from the physical uniforms themselves, and therefore should be protected as creative expression under copyright law. In this case, the Supreme Court must struggle with its case law regarding the “idea/expression dichotomy” in copyright law. Observers are anxious to learn whether the Court will attempt to draw a relatively bright line rule as to whether aesthetic elements of a garment are generally protectable, or whether it will follow a line of cases arising from an earlier Supreme Court decision and further developed in the lower courts holding that certain elements are “aesthetically functional” and therefore not protectable by copyright law.

David S. Olson, Associate Professor at Boston College Law School, will discuss the clues as to how the case may be resolved that can be gleaned from the argument before the Supreme Court on October 31, 2016.

Featuring:

  • Prof. Davis S. Olson, Associate Professor, Boston College Law School

Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands concerns the copyrightability of elements on cheerleading uniforms. Appropriately, given that the case involves costuming, it is being argued on Halloween, October 31, 2016. At issue in the case is whether the chevrons, zig zags, and stripes that are standard elements on cheerleading uniforms are protected by copyright, or are unprotectable “functional” elements of a cheerleading uniform. Star Athletica argues that these standard elements are functional given that cheerleading uniforms would not be cheerleading uniforms without them. Varsity Brands argues that the elements are conceptually separable from the physical uniforms themselves, and therefore should be protected as creative expression under copyright law. In this case, the Supreme Court must struggle with its case law regarding the “idea/expression dichotomy” in copyright law. Observers are anxious to learn whether the Court will attempt to draw a relatively bright line rule as to whether aesthetic elements of a garment are generally protectable, or whether it will follow a line of cases arising from an earlier Supreme Court decision and further developed in the lower courts holding that certain elements are “aesthetically functional” and therefore not protectable by copyright law.

David S. Olson, Associate Professor at Boston College Law School, will discuss the clues as to how the case may be resolved that can be gleaned from the argument before the Supreme Court on October 31, 2016.

Featuring:

  • Prof. Davis S. Olson, Associate Professor, Boston College Law School

Call begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

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