“The clothes on the hanger do nothing. The clothes on the woman do everything,” said Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer during oral arguments Monday in the highest court in the land. The judges, who usually sport the same black robes, are hearing a case — Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands — over whether copyright law protects the design of cheerleading uniforms. At issue here is if (and how) specific design features — like stripes, for example — are original enough to be copyrighted, or if those elements are inseparable from the uniform’s function (what’s considered a “useful article” under copyright law).
Given the nature of the case — which could have broader implications for the fashion industry — Breyer wasn’t the only one to show off his fashion prowess. In a discussion about stripes, Chief Justice John Roberts asked if there was a difference if they were “were stitched instead of applied.”