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1: The Supreme Court Says the Iconic American Cheerleading Uniform Design is Protected by Copyright Law
First off today, Zameena Meija at Quartz reports that the US Supreme Court has ruled decorative elements of cheerleader uniforms are protected under copyright, handing a major win to Varsity Brands in their long-running battle against their smaller competitor Star Athletica.
The case, which began nearly seven years ago, looked at whether Star had infringed upon Varsity’s cheerleader uniform designs. While there was little question about similarity, at issue was whether or not Varsity could protect design elements such as chevrons, stripes and other basic components.
Star Athletica had argued that such elements were part of the functional item that is the uniform and, as such, couldn’t be protected. However, the Supreme Court, in a 6-2 opinion, ruled that the elements could be separated from the uniform, meaning that they qualify as two-dimensional works of art. The decision is being celebrated by the fashion industry, which sees the ruling as preserving what limited copyright protection they have.
Next up today, Daniel Fisher at Forbes reports that, in another Supreme Court ruling, the court found that the doctrine of laches does not apply in patent cases and that patent holders can wait to file a lawsuit, possibly even waiting until after an infringing product is successful.
The judges determined that, while they may not like the idea of a patent holder delaying filing a lawsuit needlessly, it is up to Congress to set up statute of limitations rather than relying on laches to determine when a plaintiff has waited too long.
Laches is a defense that claims a plaintiff waited too long to file a lawsuit and, in doing so, created an undue burden on the defendant. It had been used in intellectual property cases to dismiss lawsuits not filed quickly. However, in 2014 the Supreme Court ruled in the Raging Bull case that laches did not apply to copyright lawsuits, making the decision in this case almost a foregone conclusion.
Finally today, Andy at Torrentfreak writes that Australia has pushed through key enhancements to its safe harbor provisions but only local ISPs will see the benefit, leaving companies such as Google and Facebook more vulnerable to copyright infringement lawsuits.
Safe harbor is what service providers use to protect themselves legally from liability when third parties commit copyright infringement using their service. Australia is in the process of drafting new safe harbor provisions as part of its implementation of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement but, at the last minute, amendments to extend such protections to international providers were withdrawn before the bill was submitted to Parliament.
The move came as a surprise as the amendments had already been approved by the country’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. However, they had been controversial with many in the news media. News Corp-owned The Australian published a series of articles that cast Google as a villain “ruthlessly exploiting” safe harbor protections in the US and EU, putting pressure on the government to withdraw its safe harbor protections.
That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.