What is a patent?
A device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful can be patented.
A patent gives the owner exclusive right to commercially exploit the invention for the life of the patent and can be applied for via the IP Australia website.
In Australia, there are two types of patents: a standard patent that gives protection for up to 20 years or an innovation patent that gives protection for up to eight years.
Is a patent of use to me?
Patents give protection to new products, methods or processes. Patents have the potential to exclusively secure long-term commercial gain.
In return, applicants must share their know-how by providing a full description of how their invention works. This information becomes public and can provide the basis for further research by others.
You can’t patent artistic creations, so not many designers have a need for patents. However in 1998, American Buck Weimer was granted a patent for his new invention Under-Ease. The airtight underwear contains a charcoal filter to cleanse noxious gasses for flatulence. He won the 2001 IG Nobel Prize in biology for his invention.
Adding devices to clothing is fast becoming a trend in this age of technology, which means patents for new devices and new methods of use for devices are an option worth considering.
American designer Lauren Scott is currently adding radio frequency identification tags to her line of children’s wear. The tags have previously been used to track shipments of freight. In clothes, the tags could carry medical information in case of an accident or emergency and could also prevent abductions by triggering an alarm if a certain perimeter is breached (e.g. tags inside pyjamas could trigger readers placed at various locations in a house if the child leaves the premises).
There is also an increasing use of patents in the textile manufacturing industry. The next generation of textiles includes fabrics treated with inherently conductive polymers developed by CSIRO that allow energy to be transferred to heat and cool the body without electrical wiring.