Sheeran’s lawyers had previously sought to have the claim thrown out of court, saying the alleged stolen parts of the song were “commonplace”.
In a ruling on Thursday (29 September), Judge Louis Stanton said, “There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute an original work,” per Billboard’s initial report.
“A work may be copyrightable even though it is entirely a compilation of unprotectable elements.”
The Independent has contacted representatives for Sheeran for comment.
The lawsuit, filed by an entity called Structured Asset Sales that owns a partial stake in Gaye’s famous song, seeks $100m (£90m) in damages. The lawsuit claimed that Sheeran had lifted a chord progression and the harmonic rhythm of Gaye’s track.
A date has not yet been set for the trial, which will take place in a Manhattan federal courthouse.
The judge’s ruling comes just months after Sheeran and his “Shape of You” co-writers were awarded over £900,000 in legal costs after winning another copyright infringement trial.
The singer-songwriter had been accused of copying parts of his 2017 smash single from Sami Chokri’s 2015 track “Oh Why” – co-written by Ross O’Donoghue.
In April this year, Justice Zacaroli cleared the singer of plagiarism after an 11-day trial at the High Court, noting that Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a phrase in the song.