What is so funny about this case is that what used to be Grandma Mima’s best-kept secret is now a household term. Sure, it’s called “shapewear” instead of a girdle, but the idea is still the same: to make people think you’re thinner than you are. Personally, I’d rather run a few more miles or do a few more sit-ups than squeeze myself into any one of those torture devices, but maybe I’m just not as sado-masochistic as most women?
Girdlegate began when a Real Housewife, as opposed to, you know, the fake kind, got her knickers chuffed because the Spanx lady copied her design for a camisole that sucks in…whatever it’s supposed to suck in. The case, dubbed by Forbes as Fashion’s Apple v. Samsung, hinges on a design patent.
Design patents differ from utility patents in that they cover what a product looks like v. what it does. That’s good since in this case both products do the same thing. It’s interesting that Heather Thomson went the patent route, and not surprising at all that Sarah Blakely countersued. From what I read on Techdirt, usually the fashion types hit people up for trademark infringement. This case will be watched by everyone out there who wants to make a red-soled shoe, that’s my bet.
This is also going to be one to watch because
cat fight! women tend to duke things out in ways that men simply don’t. It’s going to get really ugly, really quickly. Further, this lends credence to my prior posts that personality matters.
Thomson has come out swinging against Spanx’s billionaire founder Sara Blakely, telling trade titleWomen’s Wear Daily that she hopes the shapewear mogul is “ready for war.” She claims three of Spanx’s slimming tank tops are Yummie Tummie knock-offs, and wrote a letter to Blakely in January asking for the company to cease and desist production.
So in this corner, we have Heather, all “You’re a copycat! Bring your army, beotch,” which prompted this:
Spanx filed a declaratory judgment action, essentially asking a judge to step in and decide whether they’ve infringed on any patents. Thomson has since filed her own complaint (in early April, for patent infringement).
…which is to say “Oh no you di-in’t just call me out. And by the way, you’re the copycat so step off!”
I don’t know who Michael Lasky is but he’s got this one nailed:
Patent lawyer Michael Lasky, who works out of Spanx’s hometown of Atlanta, concedes that the dispute is “a bit of a grudge match”, with Thomson’s ego driving the case.
Emphasis mine, as usual. I hate to “go there” and use the phrase “go there” (ugh) but men get all the credit for having the big egos and boy do we have it wrong sometimes. (As an aside, can you just imagine a couple of men putting up their dukes because they each designed a golf shoe that looks similar? Or worse, fighting over the design of manx, which I can only presume is what male spanx would be called if it weren’t already a type of cat? Please. Never going to happen.) Ms. Thomson’s going to take this one to the courts, to the press, and now, thanks to the AIA, possibly also to the USPTO.
It matters who you’re dealing with and how they deal with others. Something tells me, and I really don’t know the players involved beyond what’s available via a web search, that this one could have been settled out of court if either party had a different personality type.
Honestly though, I’m probably not qualified to comment on any of this really, because under no circumstances can I see two women comparing their underthings and one remarking “Nice Spanx!” and the other replying “As if! Girl, this is a Yummie Tummies!” They’re called unmentionables for a reason, is what I mean by that.