Evidently, having a uniboob is a problem in the fitness industry. That’s why Sara Marie Moylan came up with her Shefit sports bra. Accoridng to her pitch, Sara’s bra is different because it is the Ultimate sports bra, meaning that it is “fully custom adjustable” so that is doesn’t squish your chest all together. Sara, a mother of four girls and a full time sales rep, made a big deal about her U.S. patent on the bra’s adjustability. According to Sara, the patent was granted on the combination of the shoulder strap and bust band. “Nobody else has this,” she claimed.
I couldn’t resist seeing what the patent office granted and whether that claim was true. I did find her patent; it is U.S. Patent No. 8,932,104 and was granted on January 13, 2015. Here is the only independent claim:
- A brassiere comprising: two laterally spaced breast cups having upper and lower edges and inner and outer side edges, the upper edges of the cups including shoulder strap attachment rings for attaching shoulder straps at the upper edges of the breast cups; a body strap attached to the lower edges of the breast cups and having a first section extending under the breast cups and an elongated second section that extends laterally outwardly from the first section on one side of the breast cups to a free end that extends around the body of a wearer, the second section of the body strap having hook and loop fastener material affixed to an elongated portion thereof, the body strap having a third section connected to the first section on an opposite side of the breast cups from the second section and extending laterally outwardly therefrom, the third section including a first piece of hardware in the form of a body strap attachment ring attached thereto, the second section of the body strap fitting around the wearer’s body and through the body strap attachment ring to fasten the brassiere on the wearer’s body, the hook and loop fastener material being affixed to the second section of the strap at spaced locations thereon, with the loop material being affixed to an elongated portion of the strap inward from the outer end and the hook material being attached toward the free end of the strap, such that when the strap is extended through the attachment ring and folded back against itself, the hook material is engaged with and thereby releasably fastened to the loop material at continuously variable positions on a length of loop material so as to adjustably fit the strap on a variety of wearers of different sizes; and elongated left and right shoulder straps respectively attached at one end to the body strap at equal lateral distances outwardly from outer sides edges of the respective left and right breast cups, the shoulder straps being positioned such that when the brassiere is fitted on a wearer, each shoulder strap is positioned to extend from the wearer’s back over one of the shoulders of the wearer and then through one of the shoulder strap attachment rings at the upper edges of the breast cups, the shoulder straps having hook and loop fastener material thereon at spaced locations therealong, with loop material extending for an elongated portion of the shoulder strap and hook material being located toward a second end of the shoulder strap, such that when the shoulder straps are extended through the shoulder strap attachment rings and folded back against themselves, the hook material is engaged with and thereby releasably fastened to the loop material at continuously variable positions on a length of loop material so as to thereby adjustably fit the shoulder straps on a variety of wearers of different sizes.
As you can see, it’s a pretty narrow claim, but it does appear to cover her product as shown on her website. See http://shefit.com/pages/shefit-bra.
What surprised me was Lori’s reaction to the patent. Lori is the self proclaimed holder of over 100 patents (most of which are design patents). Lori took the position that Sara’s patent probably wasn’t valid, even if granted by the patent office, because there are other bras out there that do the same thing. Lori mentioned that there is “shoulder brace” prior art. Lori stated that, “In patenting, if you see something is prior art, an examiner may say it is intuitive. That concerns me.”
While Lori is generally correct in that a patent’s validity can be attacked based on prior art, the issue Lori neglected to address is that when a claim is marrow, it is really hard to invalidate because you need to find prior art that does the same thing. In looking at Sara’s claim, I doubt a shoulder brace could be very effective in knocking out Sara’s patent. Lori should have looked at the patent claim before making such a statement. In any event, that was enough for Lori to bow out.
Damon, who eventually gave an offer, took the exact opposite approach. He said you never really create anything new and so he doesn’t really care about patents. In his business, “It’s all about speed to market.” In my experience, Damon is correct in that speed to market is more effective than a patent. However, that is only true to an extent. Once you become successful, knock-offs come from everywhere, and if you don’t have a patent, they are going to take a chunk of your market.
Kudos to Sara for getting her patent (even though it is kind of narrow and she should have kept a continuation pending) so she at least has some ammunition against infringers. Even better, Kudos for being such a great marketer and taking Damon’s offer. Getting a patent never sells anything. Convincing people to buy your product is what it is all about.