Why the Future of Fashion Depends on Cheerleading Uniforms

Jessica Schiffer
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Splash News

It’s been a while since cheerleading took center stage in the cultural zeitgeist—the early ’00s were a peak of sorts for our fascination with the sport-meets-dance teams, driven by the success of Bring It On and reality television shows like Cheerleader Nation. But thanks to an ongoing case regarding cheerleading uniforms that the Supreme Court is taking on this coming October, spirit fingers are shaking their way back into the spotlight.

And not just any spotlight—no. It’s the fashion industry who will be paying very close attention to this case, as it could have significant implications for the oft-contested copyright laws that high-fashion designers and fast-fashion brands are constantly navigating.

Let’s break it down. A few years ago, Varsity Brands, the world’s largest manufacturer of cheerleading uniforms, sued its competitor Star Athletica for supposedly reproducing its copyrighted designs. While this might seem like an easy case to weigh in on, the complex copyright laws in this country make it much more of a challenge. See, anything considered “useful” (a uniform, an appliance, etc.) can’t be copyrighted, while any designs (patterns, embellishments, etc.) on top of that useful item can be. This makes copyrighting a clothing item, which merges function with design, particularly tricky.

As Fortune points out, “with $330 billion in annual sales among apparel, footwear and accessories, any change in what’s copyrightable could have widespread implications.” To find out more about those potential effects, we spoke to our favorite legal expert, Julie Zerbo of The Fashion Law.

Keep reading to see what she had to say.

Scroll down to shop pieces with design elements not likely to be considered "useful"…

Reformation Laura Dress ($278)

Urban Outfitters Beach Boys Muscle Tee ($39)

How do you think the Supreme Court should rule on this case? Sound off in the comments!

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