Australian retailer Lorna Jane has expressed its “confusion” and “upset” after a physiotherapist launched legal action, accusing it of patent infringement.
In a statement sent to media late on Friday (8 March), South Australian physiotherapist and lecturer Carolyn Taylor announced that she had launched action against the retailer in the Federal Court, alleging infringement of “a patent covering support and compression garments”.
“[Ms] Taylor believes that Lorna Jane has infringed on the patent with many of their current leggings and shorts and may have done so for many years. The statement of claim filed with the Federal Court lists 68 styles which allegedly infringe,” the statement said.
“The reason I pursued a patent was because I believed I had an important and novel product,” Ms Taylor said.
“We have spent a lot of money in the patent application process. I wanted to protect our invention and have a unique product on the market. This was my concept and it is now being used by someone else.”
According to Ms Taylor, her patent attorney Sarah Gilkes, director of mdp Law, has “written a number of letters to Lorna Jane and told them of the styles that we believe were infringing on the patent”, but the matter remains unresolved.
“I have spent approximately $30,000.00 to get the patent… Now an extra $20,000.00 with lawyers so far, with estimates of up to $250,000.00,” she said.
“A lot of time, effort and money went into getting this product to market and we want to make ensure that it isn’t exploited by anyone without our permission. I have had to borrow money to fight this. It has been, and will be, an expensive exercise.
“This has been a financial burden to me and my husband, and this is a financial risk launching court proceedings, but a risk I believe is worth taking.”
Ms Taylor added: “We believe we have a strong case to present as many of our claims have been infringed.”
Her statement said that an initial hearing of the matter has been scheduled in the Federal Court in Melbourne on 3 May 2019.
In response to the allegations and legal action, Lorna Jane CEO Bill Clarkson issued a statement via a spokesperson in which he expressed confusion at the action, suggesting Lorna Jane has “been made a target”.
“Lorna Jane ha[s] been designing and manufacturing compressive and supportive activewear since 1989, when Lorna started hand-making leotards and short tights for herself and then the clients in her aerobics classes, in turn pioneering the activewear category,” Mr Clarkson said.
“Compression and support tights have been part of our business for the last 30 years, over 20 years before this patent was lodged.
“We are confused as to why the claim in regards to infringing on a patent from 2010 for pregnancy support garments and medical compression garments have been bought against us when there are many great Australian brands that design similar garments.
“The terms compression and support can be applied to a variety of garments including slim fit jeans, skirts and body shaping intimates, to name a few.”
Mr Clarkson continued: “It is upsetting that yet again Lorna Jane, the brand we have fought tirelessly to build over the last 30 years and continue to take from strength to strength, has again been made a target.
“We look forward to our defending our position on this matter.”
According to Ms Taylor’s statement, the global activewear market is forecast to hit $567 billion by 2024. It quoted MarketWatch.com as stating that Lorna Jane is Australia’s biggest retailer in this space.
Lorna Jane currently has close to 130 stores around Australia, with locations in every state and territory. The brand was founded by Mr Clarkson and his wife, Lorna Jane Clarkson, from whom the business takes its name.
According to the retailer’s website, Ms Clarkson is its “chief creative officer and all-round inspo Queen”.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.