Judge Finds Copyright Lawsuit Over Tie-Dye Shirts Totally Frivolous

from the good-for-him dept

Many may associate tie-dyed shirts with hippies, The Grateful Dead and sharing, but apparently one maker of such shirts thought it owned a copyright on certain designs. Michael Scott points us to the news that a tie-dye shirt maker named Bonzai had claimed that another shirt maker, Broder Bros., had copied two of its tie-dye shirt design patterns and color schemes, but thankfully, the judge not only tossed the suit out as frivolous, but also handed over attorneys' fees as well. The judge found it ridiculous that anyone would claim a copyright on such things, noting that there was nothing original in the designs that made them deserving of copyright protection, and ordered the Copyright Office to cancel the registrations:
Plaintiff admits that the tie-dye spiral design is common and not proprietary," Kauffman wrote, "so its only unique contribution was to select the colors red, white, and blue in one design and orange and yellow in the other."

Kauffman found that neither color combo showed even "a modicum of creativity."

"Red, white, and blue are commonly matched colors, perhaps most notably on the American flag. Orange and yellow are adjacent in the spectrum of colors visible to the human eye," Kauffman wrote.

"Placing these basic, predictable color combinations into a pre-existing design does not satisfy the minimum creativity necessary to establish a valid copyright," Kauffman wrote

As a result, Kauffman concluded that suing over the alleged theft of such copyrighted designs amounted to a misuse of copyright law.

"Plaintiff's claim, based upon its selection of two or three commonly-combined colors in what it admits is an otherwise unprotectable design, is objectively unreasonable and frivolous," Kauffman wrote.
In arguing against having to pay attorneys' fees, Bonzai apparently claimed that since the Copyright Office had granted registration for the copyrights, it had every reason to assume they were valid. Of course, this ignores one simple fact: unlike getting a patent, the process of registering a copyright is about as close to an automatic rubber stamp as you can get. It's certainly nice to see a judge completely dismiss a frivolous copyright claim.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: copyright, tie-dye
Companies: bonzai, broder bros.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 21 May 2009 @ 6:36pm

    Kauffman for SCOTUS

    Can we somehow organize to champion this guy for the new Court appointment?

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.