Posted on : 23-07-2014 | By : Sarah Foley | In : Legal Stuff, News, Patents
Tags: active, athletic, Calvin Klein, Champion, design, fashion, gym, Hanesbrands, Louis Vuitton, Lululemon, patent, Target, USPTO, workout
Lululemon is actively protecting more than just their brand recognition for luxury-level active wear. The Canadian-based company designs and manufactures athletic apparel and accessories, illness which have quickly become iconic in some fashion spheres. But the company’s activity doesn’t end in the gym.
Lululemon has pushed their business activity into the intellectual property sphere as well, filing for and enforcing design patents granted for their athletic apparel. Currently, the company has 31 design patents that cover apparel including bras, shorts, pants, jackets, tank tops, bags, yoga mats, and other specific design elements common to Lululemon products.
A recent article actually labeled Lululemon “The Fashion Industry’s Biggest Patent Troll.” But such name-calling is a bit obtuse, given that each of these design patents owned by Lululemon appear to be assigned by Lululemon designers and employees of the company. The active wear company does not seem to be acquiring patents for the sole purpose of enforcement, as the colloquial “patent troll” would, but increased enforcement of Lululemon design patents does appear to be where the activity of the company is headed.
In 2012 Lululemon filed a lawsuit against Calvin Klein, alleging infringement of one of their design patents for yoga pants, which resulted in an undisclosed settlement agreement. The following year, Lululemon issued a Cease & Desist demand aimed at HanesBrands Inc., a manufacturer for a tank top marketed and sold in Target Stores under the Champions brand. HanesBrands gave Lululemon a light workout, offering some resistance by filing a lawsuit against Lululemon claiming invalidity of the design patent at issue. However, that case also resulted in settlement.
Offensive enforcement of these design patents appears to be the strategy Lululemon is pursuing. And this raises several questions. Will this be a new era of fashion forward intellectual property? Does the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have the requisite expertise to be making decisions on what is novel and innovative in the fashion industry? Will the Courts uphold the USPTO’s fashion decisions? Will long black robes be back on trend? (Fashion declined to comment)
We may just have to wait and see what comes down the fall runway. (Get it? Active wear. Run way. Okay, I’ll stop.)
Bonus: Louis Vuitton never fails to rabidly protect their brand, even against law students seeking to learn how to protect IP.