Laser treated jeans at the center of patent infringement lawsuit. RevoLaze v. J.C. Penney

Laser treated jeans at the center of patent infringement lawsuit. RevoLaze v. J.C. Penney

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted the the inventor of an invention. To be granted a patent in the Untied States an inventor must file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office will review the patent application and if all the requirements are met, the inventor will be granted a patent.  A patent gives the owner of the patent the exclusive right to make, use, sell, and import the invention in the Untied States.  If someone other than the patent owner attempts to exercise one of these exclusive rights, that can be considered patent infringement.  A patent owner can stop patent infringement by filing a lawsuit in court which requests an injunction and request that the court award monetary damages which has occurred.

To be eligible for patent protection an invention must be a process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter. 35 U.S.C 101.  An invention that does not fall into at least one of those categories cannot be patented even it meets the other requirements for patentability. When dealing with a patent that relates to a process, the invention typically relates to a faster, less expensive way to make a common product.  While products produced using two different processes may appear identical to consumers, to manufacturers, new processes can give them a significant advantage over competitors.  Therefore, patents related to new processes are highly valuable and closely guarded.

It can be quite difficult to prove that a product was produced using a patented process.  When a patent owner believes that a product is being produced using their patented process, they must gather evidence which demonstrates patent infringement.  Sometimes an infringer will advertise the exact process that they use to produce a product and in that case a patent owner has an easy case.  But, frequently the only evidence a patent owner has is a product made by a competitor.  In that case a patent owner must demonstrate that physical characteristics of a product demonstrate unique characteristics which can only be produced by the patented process.

A case which illustrates a process patent infringement lawsuit is REVOLAZE LLC v. J. C. PENNEY COMPANY, INC., 19-cv-00043 (W.D.TX 2019).  The plaintiff in this case is Revolaze, which was founded by Darryl Costin, PhD.  The plaintiff invented, patented, and commercialized laser technologies to scribe patterns and designs on textiles and garments, such as the “worn look” on jeans. Dr. Costin began his laser scribe research in 1993.  The plaintiffs inventions use sophisticated mathematical modeling techniques to identify the laser operating parameters and their values to successfully laser etch graphics and patterns on textiles without burning or causing undesired holes in the fabric. Using a laser to give jeans a worn look is preferred to other methods because other methods are more expensive or considered more harmful to the environment.  U.S. Patent Nos. 5,990,444; 6,140,602; 6,252,196; 6,664,505; and 6,819,972 embody the majority of RevoLazes inventions.

The defendant in this case is a major retailer in the United States that sells jeans which feature a worn look.  The plaintiff purchased the defendants products and scrutinized the fabric using an electron microscope.  The electron microscope revealed pores on the fibers of material in the patterns of the defendant’s the jeans.  The plaintiff came to the conclusion that using a laser to scribe the patterns on the jeans is the only way those pores would have been formed, other processes of putting patterns on the jeans would not produce similar pores.

The plaintiff filed a 160 page complaint with sixty nine counts of patent infringement.  Each count details how the physical characteristics of the defendant’s product demonstrates that the product was produced using the plaintiff’s patented process.

While the plaintiff’s argument is persuasive given the length and detail of the allegations, the case is just beginning.  The defendant will be given the opportunity to respond to the complaint.

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