08 May 2008

Storm in a B cup?

A single mother from New York is suing US underwear giant ‘Victoria’s Secret’ for infringing the registered patent for her multi-way bra.

Katerina Plew, of Long Island, patented her invention in May 2004.  She is claiming that the retail giant has impinged on her rights by launching their ‘Very sexy 100-Way Strapless Convertible Bra’.  Plew had contacted Victoria’s Secret a year before their launch, to set up a meeting and sell them her idea of the ‘miracle’ bra, which can be worn in over 100 ways so as to avoid ever having straps on show. Having emailed them pictures and a description, Plew claims that Victoria’s Secret, cancelled the meeting.

On a recent visit to the underwear store, Plew spotted their new “Very sexy 100-Way Strapless Convertible Bra” and broke down, realising that they had stolen her idea. 

Because she has a patent, Plew seems to be in a strong position. We will have to see whether Victoria’s Secret can show that they were developing the bra not only before Plew contacted them, but before she filed her patent in order to defeat her claim. 

Too often innovators and designers fail to get adequate protection for their intellectual property rights before they disclose it to others.  Sometimes this is due to bad advice, sometimes owing to financial resources.  We strongly advise clients to get registered patent or design protection at an early stage.  If protection is applied for with sensible commercial advice on strategy, then significant protection can be obtained for very modest cost. 

If you don’t have patent or design protection you will often be relying on confidentiality to protect your idea.  Many companies will not sign confidentiality agreements on as yet unseen inventions, leaving you exposed and without strong recourse if your idea finds its way into the market.

If Plew wins her case, not only will it be uplifting for independent innovators, it will demonstrate the value of registered protection.  Watch this space to see if her legal briefs obtain the support of the courts and they find in her favour…

Category: Article