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

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  1. identicon
    ASH, 22 May 2009 @ 1:11pm


    Actually, the judge didn't rule that "any" tie-dye shirt couldn't get copyright, but that these specific two designs couldn't get copyright, because they were just so damn generic. Spiral design, red-white-and-blue color, etc...basically, lacking in the "creation" aspect of creativity.

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