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Copyright Law

Suit Tests Theory that Halloween Costumes Can Be Copyrighted

Posted Oct 31, 2011 8:18 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A lawsuit filed against a website that sells Halloween costumes contends the online marketer is selling attire that violates the Power Rangers copyrights and trademarks.

The suit targets Underdog Endeavors, operators of MyPartyShirt.com, according to the Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood, Esq. column. At issue is whether costumes can violate copyrights if they don’t use trademarked names or reproduce a copyrighted character, the story says.

The Copyright Act doesn’t allow a copyright on a “useful article” such as clothing. However, the law does allow a copyright on things that are "pictorial, graphic, or sculptural.”

The section may allow individual design elements that are part of a garment to be copyrighted, though the garment as a whole is not eligible for copyright. The story links to an analysis by the Los Angeles Intellectual Property Trademark Attorney Blog, which cites a 2005 decision by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The opinion said Halloween costumes may be copyrightable if the design elements can be conceptually separated from the overall function of the costume as clothing.

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