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Yoga Pants War: Lululemon Sues Calvin Klein Over Pants Design

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on September 17, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There is no 'inner peace' in the yoga pants lawsuit launched by Lululemon against Calvin Klein but the claim is an interesting one.

Lululemon is claiming patent infringement on several design patents for their well-loved yoga pants, reports The Wall Street Journal. Design patents haven't been popular for many years so any case that deals with them could potentially be a game-changer.

Fashion and other design-reliant industries don't have a lot of intellectual property protections. This case could have a significant impact on functional designs going forward and the future of design patents.

Intellectual property is based on the idea that without protection, innovation won't flourish. The assumption is that people won't spend time and money to develop products that competitors can easily steal.

But that very reasoning doesn't play out in fashion, as pointed out by NPR.

One of the patents in Lululemon's claim is for a distinctive waistband with overlapping fabric panels that was awarded a design patent. If their claim is successful, design patents for other functional fashions may not be too far behind.

This case doesn't just affect fashion. Design patents have applications in other industries including technology. After all, the recent Apple v. Samsung case rested in part on an allegation of design patent infringement.

Apple won on that claim. If Lululemon is similarly successful design patents may have more bite in the future.

One of the big criticisms of patents in fast-paced industries like software is that the protections last so long that they stifle innovation. For an industry that is brand new every few years, a 20 year patent term if effectively forever.

Fashion moves on a similarly fast pace. With new collections out several times a year, design patents could have a negative impact on a market where there is significant innovation without much intellectual property protection.

Cases like this give courts an opportunity to weigh in on how existing law applies to these new issues. But whether those applications will be positive is anyone's guess.

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