How to Get a Patent on an Idea for Clothing Accessories

By Jeff Franco J.D./M.A./M.B.A.

If after you come up with a great idea for a new clothing accessory and want to begin capitalizing on it, you might consider getting a patent. If the United States Patent and Trademark Office approves your patent application, it means that no one but you has the right to manufacture and sell the clothing accessory. However, the patent application can be complicated, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the requirements at the outset.

Novelty & Non-Obviousness

Before you even start thinking about filling out a patent application, the first thing you should do is thoroughly evaluate whether your clothing accessory idea can satisfy the USPTO’s “novel and non-obvious” requirement. Your clothing accessory must be unique – meaning it’s unknown and hasn’t been used in the U.S. and hasn’t been publicized abroad, regardless of whether a foreign patent exists for it or not. And if you’re the person responsible for the prior publication or widespread use of the accessory, the USPTO will not issue a patent if more than one year has passed since your publication or use. Moreover, if similar accessories exist, it’s imperative that you be able to show how yours is significantly different. However, the differences need to be more than just a distinguishing color or size. Patent eligibility also requires that your clothing accessory idea not be so common or fundamental that most people in the clothing industry already know about the technology or design.

Existing Accessories Patents

Not only must your clothing accessory idea pass the first “test” of novelty and non-obviousness, but you also need to ensure that a patent doesn’t already exist for a substantially similar clothing accessory. The USPTO provides you with free access to a searchable online database of patents. The database has a number of keywords and parameters you can use when conducting a patent search. If you discover an existing patent for a similar clothing accessory, obtaining a patent for your own idea will be more difficult.

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Choosing Patent Application

It is extremely important that you choose the appropriate patent application to submit for your clothing accessory idea. If your accessory has a unique ornamental design that is the more significant distinguishing characteristic, you should file a design patent application. However, if the accessory has a unique function, such as a belt that can change colors with the press of a button, you’ll likely need to file a utility patent application instead, so that you can protect the color-changing technology of the belt.

Clothing Patent Application Documents

Preparing your patent application can be a time-consuming endeavor, because the USPTO requires specific information about your clothing accessory before it can process your application. This can include one or more drawings of the accessory’s design, a detailed specification that describes the clothing accessory in detail and outlines every claim as to its functionality, and a number of other documents, such as an application data sheet, fee and application transmittal forms. In some cases, you must include a signed declaration or oath that the invention is your own idea. Once you complete and file your application with the USPTO, expect to wait an average of two years for a decision.

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