Supreme Court Rules on Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands

On March 22, last Saturday, the Supreme Court came to an important decision regarding Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands which marked the first time that they heard a case about apparel design copyright. The decision held that “a feature incorporated into the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection only if the feature (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article, and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work—either on its own or fixed in some other tangible medium of expression—if it were imagined separately from the useful article into which it is incorporated.” Basically, the test held that the designs on the cheerleading uniforms are indeed separable and therefore eligible for copyright protection.

Why is this important in the business of 3D printing? As 3D printing becomes more accessible to the average consumer, many printable objects will have copyrightable aspects. Companies in the forefront of the industry like Shapeways, Formlabs, and others filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the case because before this case, there were no clear regulations. Now, designers who have their designs printed on 3D objects may have more legal protection as long as the design can be considered separate from the “useful article” or object.

D3CRYPT3D CEO, Chloe Kettell, said, “As more infringement cases arise, 3D asset creators and artists should be able to provide proof that their design is indeed theirs. At D3CRYPT3D we have developed a platform where creators and artists can track their assets and embed a signature on their designs. Just like iTunes changed the intellectual property standards in music, we want to change the intellectual property standards in 3D.”

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