The battle for a better bra is heading to court.
Lululemon Athletica is suing Under Armour for allegedly copying a sports bra design, showing just how critical it has become for retailers to reinvent the ubiquitous undergarment.
According to Lululemon, its $52 Energy Bra — which has four straps that criss-cross in the back — “does it all.” Which is why, the Vancouver-based company says, it’s suing rival Under Armour for patent and trademark infringements. In its lawsuit, filed this month, Lululemon says it takes issue with four of Under Armour’s sports bras, which range from the $29.99 Armour Strappy to the $39.99 Armour Eclipse Low Impact.
In the filing, Lululemon says “Under Armour’s unauthorized acts have caused and will continue to cause irreparable damage to Lululemon and its business.”
A spokeswoman for Lululemon declined to comment for this story. A representative for Baltimore-based Under Armour said the company “takes the intellectual property rights of others very seriously.”
The two companies are fighting for a piece of the fast-growing sports bra market, which analysts say accounts for more than $1 billion in U.S. sales a year. Last year, Lululemon executives said third-quarter bra sales grew more than 20 per cent.
Patent lawyers say lawsuits of this type are rare in the fashion industry, mostly because few retailers are willing to go through the trouble — or expense — of securing design patents for their products.
“This is a long, expensive process — we’re talking at least a year and half, and several thousand dollars — just to get the patent,” said Laura Ganoza, an intellectual property lawyer in Miami. “That’s a lifetime in the fashion industry, where the lifespan of an article of clothing is a season, if you’re lucky.”