Jon Zahourek did not take a cadaver skeleton and simply create the same thing in plastic. For years, he studied the human form. Over time, he combined his talents as inventor and artist, to eventually create the MANIKEN® model.
The sculpture—equal parts ingenuity, artistry, and science—stands at the foundation of his business. At approximately 29 inches tall, it also stands as the foundation of learning for hundreds of thousands of students over the course of its existence.
So what happens when a company buys the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System models and uses them improperly? Is it okay because a MANIKEN® model is like a chair or a dress, useful but otherwise not proprietary?
No, it is decidedly not okay. That’s what the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver found last month. It ruled that Balanced Body University, a training program for Pilates instructors, could not treat MANIKEN® sculptures as if they were simple “useful articles,” like lamps or watches or drawer pulls.
Instead, Zahourek’s models—part of a complete hands-on learning system that comes with special clay in many colors—are like textbooks, conveying information in a way that is protected by law.
“The 10th Circuit found that there is reason to view Jon Zahourek’s sculpture as more than a useful article. Jon Zahourek’s sculpture is unique and beautiful and worth fighting for,” said Nicole Ressue, one of the attorneys who litigated the case for Santangelo Law Offices in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“We protect creative businesses and creative people. This is for artists everywhere. And it supports Mr. Zahourek as an artist and his efforts to protect his Maniken model.”
The court declared that the MANIKEN® model was “not just any three-dimensional structure,” wrote Judge Robert E. Bacharach. Just as textbooks are not simply two pounds of paper (or, in this digital age, one massive pdf file), what went into these educational tools—years of study and creativity and financial investment—cannot be taken for granted or misused.
This decision is a win for creators everywhere. Of course, it’s also a win for the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System, which has pursued this case for many years. More legal proceedings involving the case are slated to follow at the U.S. District Court level.
In the meanwhile, students can continue to appreciate the three-dimensional, hands-on experience that comes from building muscles, nerves, and organs using Zahourek’s innovative and unique learning system.