While the U.S. Supreme Court’s copyright decision on cheerleader uniforms strengthens IP protection for fashion designers somewhat, some copyright lawyers whose practice includes the apparel industry said the high court missed a golden opportunity to provide more clarity.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for a five-member majority that artistic design elements that are part of a useful article such as clothing can be copyrighted if they can be “imagined separately” from the article. That means Varsity Brands Inc.’s cheerleader uniform designs are eligible for copyright, even though the colorful chevrons and zigzags also serve the functional purposes of identifying a team and flattering the wearer’s figure.

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