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Retailer Must Pay for Infringing Underwire Bra Patent

Patents are the means by which the law protects and encourages inventiveness and original thought and the consequences of infringing them can be severe. In one case, a high street retailer was left to count the cost after the High Court found that it had breached intellectual property rights in a tubular fabric used in underwire bras.

The patent holder had previously taken action against the retailer in respect of bra ranges which were said to breach its rights. Those proceedings had been settled on terms which were meant to achieve worldwide finality. However, the dispute broke out afresh less than two years later when the patent holder accused the retailer of again marketing infringing bras. The retailer’s plea that the patent was invalid was struck out on the basis that the settlement precluded such an argument.

In upholding the patent holder’s claim, the Court found that three types of bra sold by the retailer fell within the protective ambit of the patent and that they had thus been marketed in breach of the settlement agreement. The ruling opened the way for the patent holder to seek injunctive relief and compensation.

Stretchline Intellectual Properties Limited v H&M Hennes & Mauritz UK Limited. Case Number: HP 2013 000002