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Patents

A patent allows the inventor or producer the exclusive right to use, make, or sell a product for a period of time, generally twenty years.
This is an image of a Nike advertisement.

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office (2015), a patent grants IP rights to an inventor, including “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States.”

A patent allows the inventor or producer the exclusive right to use, make, or sell a product for a period of time, generally twenty years.

There are three types of patents outlined by the US Patent and Trademark Office:

  1. Utility patents may be granted for an invention or discovery of new and useful processes, machines, or manufactured products; or new and useful improvements to these processes, machines, or products.
  2. Design patents may be granted for inventions of new, original, and ornamental design for manufactured products.
  3. Plant patents may be granted for inventions or discoveries in new and distinct variety of plants. Of course, utility and design patents are most common in the fashion industry.
  4. Utility patentsmay be granted for technological advancements in textile processing, apparel, and accessory production, or in the products themselves.
  5. Design patents may be granted for surface ornamentation of utilitarian products; that is, how the product looks rather than how it functions. Both utility and design patents may be obtained for a single fashion product if it has both functional and ornamental characteristics (US Patent and Trademark Office 2018).

For example, each of the past few years, Nike Inc. has been awarded hundreds of patents, including utility patents (e.g., Patent Number 10150027 for Shin Guard Sleeve) and design patents (e.g., Patent Number D835389 for the ornamental design of a shoe).

These patents grant Nike the sole use of these innovations (Figures 2.4a and 2.4b). If another company uses a patented product, process, or design the patent owner has the right to sue the party for patent infringement.

A design sketch of a shoe

Figures 2.4a and 2.4b: Patents allow companies such as Nike the exclusive right to use, make, or sell a product innovation.

In the next step we will uncover some important points on trademarks and service marks.

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Business Law and the Fashion Industry

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