This post originally appeared on the Shapeways blog.

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would be considering Star Althletica v. Varsity Brands, destined to be known as “the cheerleader uniform case.”   On its face, the case is focused on the somewhat metaphysical question of when a tennis skirt and tank top cross the line into being a cheerleader uniform.

However, as we’ve written about before, the real question in the case is how copyright should apply to works that mix creative and functional elements.  Copyright protects creative works but not functional works, so drawing that line can be incredibly important.  Unfortunately, currently there are at least 10 different (somewhat conflicting) tests that try and guide the analysis.

Earlier this year Sydney Lakin and Bill Koch at Stanford Law School’s Juelsgaard IP and Innovation Clinic helped us, along with Formlabs and Matter and Form, ask the Supreme Court to step in and pick one definitive test.

Why do we care so much?  Many 3D printed objects combine both functional and design elements.  Understanding if – and how – copyright applies to them is the first step in understanding licensing, use, and many other aspects of those objects.

We don’t know when the case will be heard yet (although we are sure it won’t be until after the summer).  We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on the developments as they come out.  In the meantime, if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments or tweet them to @MWeinberg2D.

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Published on November 01, 2018