Balenciaga – sans Alexander Wang – has been awarded a design patent for one of its bracelets. The design at issue: the Bow Bracelet (pictured below) that Wang showed in his debut collection for the Paris-based house in February 2013. As you may know, Wang and Balenciaga did not renew his creative director contract this year, and he has since been replaced by Demna Gvasalia. The patent here is noteworthy not only because design patents are a bit rare in fashion, but because of the timeline, and the brand’s new ability to file patent infringement lawsuits against any fast fashion copiers that are selling a version of this bracelet.
According to the recently released registration documents for the Bow Bracelet patent, Balenciaga applied to patent the design in mid-April 2015. The bracelet’s “inventor” is listed as Isabelle Guichot, the President and CEO of Balenciaga. Note: Guichot is not actually the designer. This is a formality, as in many creative contracts, the output of the brand’s creative parties ultimately belongs to the brand itself and not the designers. The actual inventor of the Bow Bracelet, which is based on a 1960's broach of Cristóbal Balenciaga, appears to be Charlotte Chesnais, a jewelry designer who spent a decade at Balenciaga under Wang's predecessor Nicolas Ghesquière. W Magazine, which ran a feature on Chesnais this summer, noted: “She left Balenciaga just after Ghesquière did—but not before debuting the bow bracelets that have since become an Alexander Wang signature.”
The patent for the bracelet was issued to Balenciaga on November 10th. That’s just over six months from the date it was filed, which as you may know, is pretty quick for design patents, which are known for their costly and time-consuming nature (and thus, their relative rarity in the fashion industry). While the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) notes that the average time to issue a design patent is 15 months, there does not appear to be any great trend towards a rapid speed-up of the patent process for all applications. In fact, our go-to patent expert, Sarah Burstein, noted that variations in timing amongst different patents is common, and that this turnaround time is not completely shocking, because as of today, the USPTO has granted 81 design patents based on applications filed on or after April 17th, the date that Balenciaga filed its application.
Also recently awarded design patent protection: Saint Laurent for its Janis pumps, Lululemon for a pair of athletic shorts, and Levi’s for a pair of pants with an inside design, among others.