As mentioned in our earlier post, there are three types of patents granted in the US: utility, design, and plant. The subject matter of a patent must fall into one of the four patent-eligible subject matter categories: process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, as outlined by the USPTO. Additionally, an improvement on any one of the aforementioned subjects may be allowed. If the subject matter falls into one of these categories, it must prove both novel and non-obvious.
Apparel manufacturers are constantly struggling to defend against the costly threat of knock-offs. Currently, protection mechanisms in the United States for apparel include protecting distinctive logos or trade names with trademarks, protecting new and ornamental designs with design patents, and protecting the overall color, look, and packaging of a garment with trade dress. Despite these mechanisms, however, adequate protection against knock-offs is not always possible, and as a result, imposters are common. In light of a new Supreme Court case, though, apparel developers may be able to add one more tool to their arsenal for protecting their designs.
It is well reported that women face many hurdles in achieving equality in the workplace. Intellectual property is one area where women are still generally under-represented. A study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research published in 2016 concluded that women are greatly under-represented as patent holders. For example, in 2010, only 18.8% of all patents included at least one woman inventor. While the representation of women as patent holders varies greatly among patent classes, only one class (chemistry: natural resins or derivatives) includes at least 50% of all patents having at least one female inventor.