Copyright over design for clothes in US


The US Supreme Court ruled in the case STAR ATHLETICA, L.L.C. v. VARSITY BRANDS, INC., which in brief concerns clarification whether clothes design is copyright protectable.

As it is well-known there is no copyright over the so-called “useful article” objects having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information. Examples are clothing, furniture, machinery, dinnerware, and lighting fixtures.

According to the court, even in this case copyright protection can be invoked but under some requirements:

  • the element can be perceived as a work of art separate from the useful article;
  • and the element would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic or sculptural work if imagined separately from the article of clothing (or other useful article).

In the particular case, the court considers that copyright over designs fixed on the clothes exist because the same designs could be transferred to another medium such as canvas in which respect it could be perceived as a separate piece of art.

More information here.


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