KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge. Are cheerleading uniforms truly cheerleading uniforms without the stripes, chevrons, zigzags, and color blocks? That is the question that strikes at the heart of this appeal. Plaintiffs-Appellants Varsity Brands, Inc., Varsity Spirit Corporation, and Varsity Spirit Fashions & Supplies, Inc. (collectively “Varsity”) have registered copyrights for multiple graphic designs that appear on the cheerleading uniforms and warm-ups they sell. Defendant-Appellee Star Athletica, LLC, also sells cheerleading gear bearing graphic designs that, according to Varsity, are substantially similar to the designs for which Varsity has valid copyrights. Star asserts that Varsity’s copyrights are invalid because the designs at issue are unprotectable “design[s] of . . . useful article[s].” 17 U.S.C. § 101 (2012). The district court concluded that a cheerleading uniform is not a cheerleading uniform without stripes, chevrons, zigzags, and colorblocks, and therefore Varsity’s copyrights are invalid. Varsity now appeals, and we take up the question that has confounded courts and scholars: When can the “pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features” that are incorporated into “the design of a useful article” “be identified separately from, and [be] capable of existing independently of the utilitarian aspects of the article[?]” Id.
For the reasons we now explain, we REVERSE the district court’s judgment and enter partial summary judgment for Varsity with respect to whether Varsity’s designs are copyrightable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, and REMAND the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.