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Varsity Brands, Inc. v. Star Athletica, LLC

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
799 F.3d 468 (2015)


Facts

Varsity Brands, Inc. (Varsity) (plaintiff) sold cheerleading uniforms with varying combinations of chevrons, stripes, and color-blocking. Varsity obtained copyrights for several of its uniform designs. Star Athletica, LLC (Star) (defendant) sold cheerleading uniforms that resembled some of Varsity’s copyrighted designs. Varsity sued Star for copyright infringement. Star moved for summary judgment, arguing that Varsity’s copyrights were invalid because designs on useful articles, like cheerleading uniforms, are not copyrightable. The district court held that a cheerleading uniform would not be identifiable as a cheerleading uniform without the types of designs that Varsity claimed were copyrighted, making the uniform’s design inseparable from the uniform’s function. Based on this, the district court agreed the uniforms were useful articles and granted Star’s motion for summary judgment. Varsity appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Moore, J.)

Dissent (McKeague, J.)

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