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Yoga apparel companies wage rare IP war for fashion industry

Intellectual property is such an important aspect in the business world. The innovative and original ideas of an organization can propel the company to new heights; or when improperly guarded by shoddy legal documentation (or no legal documentation at all), these ideas can be copied by the company's competitors, severely damaging the innovators' chances at surviving a competitive marketplace.

Establishing airtight patent or trademark documentation is absolutely essential to many companies in a variety of different industries. However, one industry rarely comes across intellectual property disputes -- the fashion industry.

Why is this? Well, the fashion industry functions on copying popular garments and clothing. When a designer comes up with something new, other designers are quick to replicate that product. These designers almost never invoke intellectual property rights and, despite conventional thinking, this lack of IP enforcement has not hindered innovation in the industry.

Some people actually believe it has spurred innovation. Two law school professors published a paper in 2006 that introduced the "piracy paradox." The term basically means that the fashion industry's copycat mentality is actually an integral part of the landscape, necessitating the industry to quickly come up with new products to satisfy customers who are always looking for the next great thing.

Well the yoga apparel company Lululemon is bucking the IP-less trend in the fashion industry, suing Calvin Klein for infringing on one of their iconic yoga pant products, "Astro Pants." These pants have swooping, overlapping bands of fabric around the waist; and "Astro Pants" were patented by Lululemon three times over the past year. If their intellectual property lawsuit proves successful, Lululemon could alter the way IP laws are applied in the fashion industry.

Source: NPR, "Can You Patent Yoga Pants?," Jacob Goldstein, Sept. 12, 2012

  • If your company's trademarks or patents have been infringed upon, you need to take legal action in order to protect your ideas and your business. To learn more, please visit our Hartford intellectual property page.

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