Please note: This was published over a year ago. Phone numbers, email addresses and other information may have changed.

Fashion and Copyright

Posted by | Start the discussion

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case involving cheerleading uniforms and copyright.  The case, Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, has to do with the designs on the uniforms sold by VarsThe Knockoff Economy ity.  Varsity sued Athletica when they started selling uniforms with similar designs.  It might be surprising to learn that fashion design enjoys very little copyright protection.  Designs printed onto or woven into the fabric used to make clothing can be copyright-protected but the design of the clothes themselves cannot be.  This is because utilitarian things (or “useful articles”) are not subject to copyright.  The Court’s decision will likely hinge on whether they determine that Varsity’s designs are utilitarian (as Athletica asserts they are) or whether they are purely decorative.  If the Court decides in favor of Varsity, it could have some significant impact on the fashion industry.

Fashion is one of the industries that seems to run counter to our intuitions about the role of copyright in sparking and protecting innovation and in ensuring that creators can profit from their work.  How can a creative industry survive and thrive without copyright protection?  There is a terrific book (available as an ebook from the PCC library) that addresses this question:

The Knockoff Economy How Imitation Sparks Innovation by Kal Raustiala & Christopher Sprigman



Start the discussion

PCC offers this limited open forum as an extension of the respectful, well-reasoned discourse we expect in our classroom discussions. As such, we welcome all viewpoints, but monitor comments to be sure they stick to the topic and contribute to the conversation. We will remove them if they contain or link to abusive material, personal attacks, profanity, off-topic items, or spam. This is the same behavior we require in our hallways and classrooms. Our online spaces are no different.



Search: Copyright Blog