Trick or Treat… Newly Filed Case Asks the Question: Is a Costume Useful or Artistic Under Copyright Law?
Stagecraft Costuming v. Househaunters Limited, Case No. 1:10-cv-197, Southern District of Ohio
Halloween is increasingly a national holiday of mega-proportions…. and here’s a case to prove that where there is a fabulous success, there also will be the flattery of imitation.
Stagecraft Costuming of Cincinnati Ohio took umbrage when it discovered that Househaunters, a competitor in the illusion costume market, had copied the most successful Stagecraft costume, “The Man in the Cage”. Stagecraft created the winning costume in 1985 and only registered it with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2010 after unsuccessfully persuading Househaunters to cease and desist their sales of the knock-off that rolled off the Househaunter’s design floor in 2008. Not surprisingly, Househaunters claims that the Stagecraft copyright registration is invalid as the costume is unprotectable under Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act as a useful article. The complaint includes counts of trade dress as well as copyright.
The motion for summary judgment that Househaunters filed in June appears to be still awaiting the judge’s ruling; and in the meantime, we were all free to wear our costumes of choice this past weekend.