This may be one of our last blog posts about Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, the cheerleader uniform case we’ve been writing about since last year. As you may recall, while nominally about copyright and cheerleader uniforms, the case is really about how copyright protects objects that combine decorative elements and by contrast, does not protect functional elements.
Since so many 3D printed objects combine both decorative and functional elements, this is an important question for the 3D printing community. Conversations about licensing 3D printed objects cannot happen until everyone understands the types of rights that actually protect those objects. Right now there are at least ten different tests geared towards figuring out if and how copyright might protect an object that is both functional and decorative. Unfortunately, this situation has not yet proven to be helpful.
Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court will have the opportunity to settle on one test soon. In February we urged the Supreme Court to take a look at this case, and in May it decided to do so. Late last week we, along with the International Costumers Guild, the Open Source Hardware Association, Formlabs, Printrbot, the Organization for Transformative Works, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries joined a brief written by Charles Duan and Meredith Rose at the public interest organization Public Knowledge. Although the brief does not push for a specific test, it does ask the Court to select a single test that is clear and easy for the greater community to understand.
In the next few months the Court will schedule oral arguments in the case. After that – probably next year – an opinion will be declared.
We will be sure to keep you posted as events unfold. In the meantime, you can read the brief here. In addition to the substance, you should take a moment to appreciate the font that Charles designed exclusively for Supreme Court briefs – exceedingly rare among lawyers – to master the inclusion of imagery in legal briefs.
Feature image from petful.