Enlarge / A banana-man, or man-ana. (credit: Rasta Imposta)

A small company called Rasta Imposta has sued K-Mart after the retailer stopped carrying the company's banana costume for the 2017 Halloween season. K-Mart switched to another company's banana suit, and Rasta Imposta charges that the rival design infringes its copyright.

But Cornell legal scholar James Grimmelmann is skeptical. Copyright law grants narrower protections to the design of "useful articles" like clothing than it does to traditional creative works like books or movies. Grimmelmann tells Ars it's not clear if Rasta Imposta's fairly pedestrian banana suit design is creative enough to qualify for copyright protection.

Yet predicting how the case will come out is difficult thanks to a recent Supreme Court ruling on the copyright status of cheerleading uniforms. In that case, which Grimmelmann describes as "a train wreck of a case," the high court ruled that the design of cheerleading uniforms was eligible for copyright protection. In the process, he says, the high court "blew away everything we thought we knew about how useful articles work."

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