A recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court may expand copyright protection for 3D printing designs. In general, copyrights protect creative works rather than useful or functional objects. In Star Athletica LLC vs. Varsity Brands Inc., the Court examined whether artistic features, specifically chevrons, lines, curves, stripes, angles, diagonals and other shapes, could be eligible for copyright protection if separated from their useful object. In this case, the useful object was a cheerleading uniform.

In concluding that the artistic features could be separated, the Court concluded that “a feature of the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright if, when identified and imagined apart from the useful article, it would qualify as a pictorial, graphic or sculptural work either on its own or when fixed in some other tangible medium.”

This decision provides a long-awaited single test for determining whether artistic elements of functional objects, like ones that are capable of being produced through 3D printing, may be protected by copyright. Read the Court’s opinion here. Contact us at Ossian Law regarding any information technology law matter.

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