Fresh from showing a pretty spectacular loungewear-as-outerwear collection, Missoni is on just about everyone's must-have list for Fall 2013. Also on the runway: the house's iconic zigzag prints, which have swept the fast fashion market following the Italian brand's collaboration with Target in 2011. This brings us to a relevant legal note. Turns out, Missoni has patented two variations of the print. As of November 2011, Missoni has two design patents extending to its famed prints but we have not yet seen the house in court. So, what protection does Missoni have as a result of the patents?
Our go-to patent expert, Sarah Burstein says: "Each patent states that 'The shading represents color contrast.' So, Missoni isn't claiming specific colors, but it's not clear exactly how far this claim would extend. Would it cover a design that used various shades of the same color? And much contrast is needed? I'd guess that in a real case, Missoni would ask the court to compare its fabric designs (the 'commercial embodiments') to the accused infringing design. So, maybe these questions wouldn't matter much in practice. On the other hand, a smart defendant might seize upon the ambiguity and claim that the patents are insufficiently 'definite,' (in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 112). Either way, it would be very interesting to see how these claims would be construed by a court.
With so many Missoni lookalikes on the market, we may not have to wait too long to see how a Missoni patent infringement case would play out in court. We'll keep you in the loop if the family-owned and run design house decides to drag someone into court.