How can a startup fashion designer get a utility patent?
Most fashion designers are familiar with design patents, which protect how a garment of clothing or accessory looks. However, as technology and fashion become more intertwined, utility patents are also being utilized by top brands such as Nike. How can a fashion designer obtain a utility patent?
First, learn about utility patents and whether you’re looking for a design patent or a utility patent for your idea. An invention must fall into a patentable category for a utility patent. Patentable categories relate to technology generally - to the function of a product or process, not its appearance. That invention can include your clothing or accessory, so long as it falls into a patentable category.
Next, conduct a patentability search to determine whether your idea is already known from publicly available information. Such information is called prior art. Your idea has to be new and non-obvious or inventive - that is, having a “wow” factor. You may want to involve a patent agent to perform the patentability search.
If you determine that your fashion idea relates to technology, is new and has that “wow” factor, then you can choose to file either a provisional or a full patent. You find out the difference between a provisional and a full patent here.
Then, you’ll need to prepare drawings and written text that explains your idea. Many startups prefer to enlist the help of a patent agent or attorney to make sure the process runs as smoothly as possible.
Finally, you’ll submit your application to a government patent office like the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
If you file a full patent, an examiner at the USPTO will determine whether or not your idea is patent-worthy. Throughout the examination process, you may be asked to submit more documents or information regarding your idea.
Utility patents for fashion designers can be tricky because you need to prove that a new addition to clothing or accessories is not merely aesthetic (that would fall under a design patent), but is actually a functional technology. Some examples of successful utility patents in fashion cover new functionalities for clothing and accessories—for example, Uniqlo’s Heat Tech fabrics include new technology with new functions, and therefore fall under a utility patent.
If you need help understanding how you should protect your fashion idea, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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