Design Patents Meet The Fashion World: Lululemon Suing Calvin Klein

from the i-thought-yoga-was-calming dept

One of the reasons some people in the fashion industry have for desiring copyright on clothing designs is to stop knockoffs from entering the market and "harming" the original designer. We have pointed out before that this is a pointless request as the fashion industry is hugely successful despite the lack of copyright and presence of cheap knockoffs. However, it seems that some companies have decided to go another route to take out cheap competition: design patents.

karm sends word that yoga pants maker Lululemon has decided that it can't compete with cheaper alternatives and so will sue the competition.
"This is a low barrier-to-entry industry. Lululemon, their success, has drawn new competitors throughout the mall," said independent retail analyst Brian Sozzi. "The valuation is so high. It's tough to warm up to a stock when you see so many new competitors."

In the suit filed in federal court in Delaware on August 13, Lululemon accused PVH Corp's Calvin Klein brand and manufacturer G-III Apparel Group Ltd of infringing three patents on the design of its yoga pants. Design patents protect the appearance of goods, in contrast to more common utility patents, which focus on how things work.
If that is not crazy enough, this same company has been able to compete with other big players without going to trial.
The company says it competes with athletic apparel heavyweights such as Nike Inc and Under Armour Inc by offering better quality, and it maintains its enviable margins by taking charge of every stage of the process - from design, to production, to sale.
If Lululemon can compete with those two companies by offering better quality to its customers, why is it not able to do so with Calvin Klein? Well, it makes the claim that some of these new products match their own quality but are far cheaper. Gee. I wonder if maybe there was something other than litigate that Lululemon could be doing that could work to its advantage. Like maybe competing on price. If quality is no longer a defining feature, then price is another good place to compete.

It really is sad when we see a company which feels threatened by the competition resorting to lawsuits rather than competing in the market. We have already seen how ridiculous such lawsuits can get with Apple and Samsung. But I guess that since that came out in favor of design patents, at least for now, we can probably expect to see many more of these kinds of lawsuits in the future.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    DataShade (profile), Sep 5th, 2012 @ 11:51pm

    If a company whose founder boasted about switching to sweatshops to cut costs a mere 7 years ago can't be CK on price... I dunno what they're doing.

     

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    Tom Anderson, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 12:21am

    If Calvin Kleine has to resort to copying others design, that seems bad to me...

     

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    Tom Anderson, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 12:21am

    If Calvin Kleine has to resort to copying others design, that seems bad to me...

     

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    varagix, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 2:11am

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/lululemon-files-yoga-pants-patent-lawsuit-against-calvin-klein-1.9153 83
    If this article is accurate it seems the pants in question are the lululemon Astropants and the CK criss cross style knee length leggings.

    http://www.calvinklein.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12610363
    http://shop.lululemon. com/products/clothes-accessories/top-rated-women/Astro-Pant-33174?cc=4518&sli=1

    It seems to be over the basic outline of the waistband.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 5:24am

    I am seriously fed up with patents.

    Patents are supposed to cover things like the transistor, the internal combustion engine or pennicilum. Actual innovation, in the scientific sense. Things that will impact the world for decades. Things that shape and change our lives.

    Instead, we are allowing people to patent designs? Really? These things will be obsolete even before the patent expires, and yet, we give them a special monopoly privilege (which will, invariably, be abused) just because the know how to file a document with the patent office?

    Fuck patents. The whole system is broken.

     

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      lfroen (profile), Sep 6th, 2012 @ 6:32am

      Re:

      The problem with this statement, is that science don't do "innovation". And of cause, science's result is not patentable.

      Those "design patents" actually make sense same way as trademark make sense - to avoid (possible confusion). So, it is perfectly OK to have "patent" for distinctive design (no, rectangle w/ rounded corners doesn't count).
      Question of abuse is unrelated here - corruption always happens (see mortgage crisis for another example).

      So, fight bribery and corruption wherever it happen, vote for honest politicians (are they exists?), start political movement and so on.

       

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        Lord Binky, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 9:33am

        Re: Re:

        Honest politicians should be thought of as uninfected politicians. If they are in the majority, they have a chance to keep out and defend against infected(corrupt) politicians.

        As is the case with the US, the infected are in majority. So while it is possible to remain uninfected, that chance diminishes with time, and without a significant inrush of uninfected, there is no chance to shift to an uninfected majority.

        Politicians are in it for a career before they are in it for the right thing to do. So in cases of right-thing-to-do vs career, career wins.

         

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    abc gum, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 5:51am

    This is a great ad campaign, designed to discourage people from purchasing their products.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Sep 6th, 2012 @ 6:15am

    Pokemon

    Lululemon I choose you! LAWSUIT ATTACK, NOW!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 6:44am

      Re: Pokemon

      I was thinking Digimon, myself. I could swear I fought a Lululemon in one of the Digimon World games...

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 6:44am

    Ah, the wonders of the "free" market.

     

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    Pixelation, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 8:06am

    I'm so glad I have never purchased an overpriced pair of Lululemon yoga pants.
    Hopefully they lose and go out of business.

     

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    Tunnen (profile), Sep 6th, 2012 @ 8:44am

    Uggg... I am feeling a little ashamed for my city now, since Lululemon was founded here... It's sad to see a Canadian company resort to these tactics.

     

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    Lord Binky, Sep 6th, 2012 @ 9:25am

    Why bother suing? Instead slap your logo on the design even more blatently and give the new designs to yoga instructors. It'll be cheaper and keep your whole status symbol bit about being priced high.

    They seem more upset that an acceptable brand's logo can be on the same type style clothing and provide a more well known status symbol to general consumers.

     

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