(CN) - The Federal Circuit held that Glamourmom's patent for a tank top with a built-in nursing bra was invalid for obviousness, but overturned the jury's inequitable conduct finding against the company.
Fledgling inventor Line Rothman formed the company, Glamourmom, to help sell her tanks tops and undershirts "with invisible support for nursing mothers."
She hired a patent lawyer and patented the idea, then sued Target, Macy's, K-Mart, Sears, Kohl's, and other department stores and clothing manufacturers for allegedly infringing on her product.
A jury concluded that the defendants' products did, in fact, infringe on Rothman's patent, but found the patent invalid based on prior art and obviousness. The jury noted that a clothing line called Leading Lady had anticipated the built-in nursing bra idea.
The federal appeals court agreed, saying the invention "falls into a very predictable field."
But the court did not agree with the jury's finding that Glamourmom committed inequitable conduct - in other words, misrepresented facts with the intent to deceive - by withholding Leading Lady's similar sports bra styles in its patent application.
The defendants also alleged that Glamoumom's attorney made unsubstantiated statements about how a person of ordinary skill in the nursing bra field would interpret certain prior art references.
Judge Rader said the record contains "no substantial evidence" that Glamourmom intended to deceive the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
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