Whose Cami Bra is it Anyway? [Chico’s Fas, Inc. v. Clair]

On June 5, 2015, Judge Sheri P. Chappell of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida decided Chico’s FAS, Inc. v. Clair. Founded in 1983, Chico’s FAS (“Chico’s”) is a Florida corporation that specializes in women’s fashion. Its brand portfolio consists of: White House | Black Market, Soma Intimates, and Boston Proper. The defendants (also counter claimants), Andrea Clair and Anastasios Koskinas, ran a business called Wink Intimates.  Wink Intimates (“Wink”), a Canadian Corporation, credits itself as the inventor of the “original cami bra.”

This particular camisole bra was the central issue of the case.  Chico’s sued Wink for a declaratory judgment of design patent invalidity. (For my non-legal friends, a declaratory judgment asks the court to define the legal relationship between the parties and their rights with respect to the matter before the court , Rule 57) Wink countersued Chico’s specifically claiming patent infringement for the camisole bra and moved for summary judgement (explained later).  Patent registrations included: U.S. Patent No. 8,506,347, U.S. Patent No. 8,182,310, and U.S. Patent No. D622,478.

 

U.S. Patent No. D622,478

Both companies sell camisole bras, a  garment that “combine[s] traditional bras with a swatch of fabric that covers cleavage.” However, Wink registered the camisole bra for a design patent and two utility patents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

Before we delve into the case, let’s discuss what exactly does patent infringement mean. According to the USPTO, patent infringement is “the act of making, using, selling, or offering to sell a patented invention, or importing into the United States a product covered by a claim covered by a claim of patent without the permission of the patent owner.”

Under 35 U.S. Code §271, the patent owner bears the burden to prove beyond a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that the defendant  either “directly infringed on the patent”, “contributed to another’s infringement”, or “induced another to infringe.” However, in defense of utilizing the patent at issue, the other party must show that that the patent is invalid by clear and convincing evidence.

In Judge Chappell’s opinion, she agreed that Chico’s showed enough evidence that the D’478 Patent is primarily functional rather than ornamental and is therefore invalid. Chico presented evidence on prior art references. Thus, Wink’s motion for summary judgment was denied. (For my non-legal followers, summary judgment is granted when the Court finds that is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgement as a matter of law, Rule 56 ) Wink’s motion for summary judgment regarding whether Chico’s products infringed on its patents was also denied because Chico’s expert witness, Joyce Baran, provided enough evidence to show otherwise.

Currently,  Soma Intimates (owned by Chico’s) doesn’t carry its cami bra on on the e-commerce website. Could this mean anything? Stay tuned as Fashion Law Mapping continues to monitor this patent infringement case. Leave a note in the comment section.

 

Sources: Chico’s FAS v. Clair // Introduction to Patent Litigation

Photo Credit: Chico’s FAS  // Wink Intimates 

***Featured products do not necessarily represent the patents at issue. The products are featured for illustration purposes only!***

 

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