How The Supreme Court's Continued Misunderstanding Of Copyright Ruined Halloween
from the costume-copyrights dept
Earlier this year we wrote about a truly awful Supreme Court ruling concerning whether or not the design of cheerleader costumes could be covered by copyright. As we had explained earlier, this ruling could have a major impact on a variety of industries. The key issue is that “useful articles” are not supposed to be subject to copyright. Historically, that’s always meant that the actual design of clothing or costumes is not protected by copyright law. And that’s been a really good thing. It’s inspired much more competition and innovation over the years in the clothing world.
As we noted when the ruling came out, allowing the copyright on cheerleader uniforms to stand, with a weird “new test” (basically whether you can “separate” the design from the useful article, and if the separated design is copyright-eligible), would lead to a lot of lawsuits pushing the boundaries of that test. And that’s exactly what’s happening. And it may ruin Halloween this year. Because suddenly, Halloween costume designers are starting to sue. Specifically, a costume maker named (no joke) “Rasta Imposta” is suing K-mart for having the audacity to sell someone else’s banana costume. Really. This is straight out of the complaint:
Incredibly, Rasta Imposta argues that basic features of a banana are its “distinct visual elements.”
The appearance and trade dress of Rasta Imposta?s distinctive Banana Design is identified by a combination of arbitrary and distinct visual elements which make up its overall appearance, design, and trade dress, including, but not limited to the Banana Design?s bright yellow color with dark tips at the ends, the lines running down the sides, the Banana Design?s placement of the banana ends, and the cutout holes in the Banana Design.
I don’t see how Rasta Imposta can legitimately argue that its copyright covers the yellow color of a banana, the dark tips or lines running down the side. That’s kinda common to all bananas. But, still, it insists another banana is infringing.
The Kmart Totally Ghoul Costume has the same shape as the Banana Design, the ends of the banana are placed similarly, the vertical lines running down the middle of the banana are placed similarly, the one-piece costume is worn on the body the same way as the Banana Design, and the cut out holes are similar to the Banana Design.
And, no, I have no idea why Kmart has named its Banana costume “Totally Ghoul.”
This whole thing seems particularly pointless. It’s a freaking costume of a banana. But, alas, with the Supreme Court flinging open the door to pulling out elements of costumes and making them copyrightable, expect more of these lawsuits.