How to Get a Patent on an Idea for Clothing Accessories

By Larissa Bodniowycz

How to Get a Patent on an Idea for Clothing Accessories

By Larissa Bodniowycz

A patent grants its holder the exclusive right to make, use, and sell an invention for a certain period. This exclusivity is a huge commercial advantage that allows the inventor of the idea to benefit from her creation. Patents are available for a wide variety of products and processes, including clothing accessories, that meet the criteria set by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The process for obtaining a patent on a clothing-accessory idea parallels the patent application process for any product. Follow these three steps.

1. Determine if Your Idea Is Patentable

Not all clothing-accessory ideas are patentable. To be patentable under U.S. law, a patent must be useful, novel, and non-obvious.

  • Useful. Usefulness is one of the easier patent requirements to meet. Generally, this just means the invention must work and have a purpose. The soles of athletic shoes are a good example of a useful clothing accessory. A sole that improves tread or incorporates a pedometer, for example, would be considered useful. In contrast, a mere design element, such as a unique shoe color, would not be considered useful—it would simply be an aesthetic element.
  • Novel. Simply put, to be novel, a patent must be new. The best way to determine whether a clothing-accessory idea is novel is to conduct internet, social media, and USPTO searches for the idea. If the searches do not reveal a patent or product that uses the idea, it is likely novel. However, it's very important to try multiple search terms related to the idea to be as thorough as possible.
  • Non-obvious. Non-obviousness is the trickiest patent criteria for all patent types, not just patents on clothing-accessory ideas. An idea is non-obvious if it is not a natural extension of a preexisting idea. An idea can be novel, in that the exact idea has never been patented, but obvious because it is not inventive enough. For example, if there is a patent on removable jacket sleeves, merely changing the sleeve length from long to short might technically be a novel idea, but it would be an obvious modification of the patented idea and, thus, probably not patentable.

2. Decide Which Form of Patent to Submit

There are different types of patents available to inventors. Choosing the correct form is important because a patent may be rejected in one form but accepted in another. The two most common types for all patents, including clothing-accessory ideas, are design patents and utility patents. Utility patents protect the idea's functionality, while design patents protect the idea's appearance.

A clothing-accessory invention with a unique function, such as a shoe sole with a built-in pedometer or a belt that changes colors, should usually be filed as a utility patent. On the other hand, an invention with a unique appearance component, such as Jimmy Choo's plexiglass shoe heel, should be filed as a design patent. In some cases, clothing-accessory ideas should be filed as both design and utility patents because they cover both categories.

3. Complete USPTO Forms and Pay Fees

Once a clothing-accessory idea has been reviewed to ensure that it is patentable and the form or forms of patent application are decided on, the next step is to file the application and required fees with the USPTO.

The application process may seem simple because it involves responding to form questions. However, this superficial simplicity is deceptive. Failure to properly complete the application or include sufficient detail in the invention's description can lead to rejection of an application that otherwise would have been approved. Using a preparation service to help develop the patent application can help avoid mistakes.

After submitting the application, the waiting game begins. The USPTO office's review of patent applications is notoriously slow, which is understandably one of the most frustrating parts of the process for inventors.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.