"It's a huge victory for my client and all artists," said attorney Stephen Heninger, who represents Birmingham artist Daniel Moore.
Moore "just took the position that his First Amendment rights had to be protected, and that he was fighting this for all artists and he really feels vindicated," Heninger said.
A representative for the University of Alabama did not immediately return a phone message Monday.
The university had claimed that Moore's artwork violates the school's trademark rights. But Heninger said the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta sided with key parts of his client's arguments that he has a First Amendment right to create the works.
"As evidenced by the parties' course of conduct, Moore's depiction of the University's uniforms in his unlicensed paintings, prints, and calendars is not prohibited by the prior licensing agreements," the ruling states.
The artist has been painting scenes of Alabama sporting events for years, but he and the university had a falling out around 2000. Five years later, Alabama sued Moore.
In Monday's ruling, the appeals court sent part of the case back to the lower court. However, Heninger said that involved what he considers a relatively minor issue.
Several group such as the American Society of Media photographers filed legal briefs in the case.
"The First Amendment really needs to give breathing room for artists at all different levels, painters like Mr. Moore in this case and the folks that our people represent, such as photographers who should be free to take and record images in the public domain," said Cleveland attorney Lorraine Baumgardner, who represents the media group.