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CLL client, Varsity Brands, won an unprecedented decision

11.10.2015

CLL’s client, Varsity Brands, won an unprecedented decision allowing for protection of graphics on cheerleading uniforms.

Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman successfully assisted Varsity Brands in obtaining a reversal by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that permitted our client to continue its copyright infringement claim against a competitor who had copied the graphic designs on its cheerleading uniforms. 

The district court had issued a summary judgment in favor of the defendant, holding that a cheerleading uniform is not a cheerleading uniform without stripes, chevrons, zigzags, and colorblocks, and therefore that Varsity’s copyrights in its graphic designs were invalid because the designs made the garments recognizable as cheerleading uniforms.

On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed.  It held that the graphic designs were conceptually separable from the garments because they did not enhance the cheerleading uniforms’ functionality as clothing that covers the body, permits free movement, and wicks moisture.  This question had not previously been decided by that court.

A dissenting judge, calling the law in this area “a mess,” would have affirmed the district court decision because he believed that the uniforms functioned to identify the wearers as cheerleaders and that the graphic designs were not separable from that function.  However, the majority rejected his view.

For further information about this case, please contact Tom Kjellberg.

Click here to read the opinion.
http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/15a0194p-06.pdf

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