As a former solicitor, I am conscious of all the legal issues involved (and there are many!) in every aspect of running my business and developing my product. I wanted to share this very interesting legal case involving WTF | Wearable Tech Fashion, an inventor, a high end brand, a start up and a well known crowdfunding platform.
Jimmy Bryan, an inventor from Houston Texas, registered 2 patents in 1999 and 2002 of various concepts of bags and purses that light up, includes a port to charge a battery and a charging plate.
Some drawings from the US Patents Office Patent dated 22 January 2002 Patent number 6,340,235
After seeing Ralph Lauren selling similar bags online and Leoht selling and raising a successful Kickstarter campaign for their light up bags with similar concepts, the inventor lodged a claim in August 2015 into the District Court in Texas against Ralph Lauren Retail and Corporation, Leoht Inc and Kickstarter Inc.
Ralph Lauren designed a wearable technology bag called The Ricky Bag with Light. It adds to its already existing Ricky collection and features four LED lights which illuminates inside the bag when it is opened. It also includes an integrated USB port to charge your mobile phone.
It not only looks like the normal Ricky Bag, it solves a very practical problem that most women have. Having too many important things in our bags that we need a light inside our bags to find said important things! And with an integrated port to charge our mobile phones, we are never in fear of running out of battery! While the original Ricky Bag retails from $2500 US, the WTF bag retails for a hefty $5000US.
The extra $2500US may be worth splashing out on because it incorporates fashion with technology as well as being handcrafted in Italy using calfskin and taking a mammoth 12 hours to construct. The Ricky Bag with Light also features a rose gold plated brass clip while the interior is made of purple calfskin adding a luxurious splash of colour to the exterior of the black bag. Fashion, luxury, practicality made by a high end brand is always worth spoiling ourselves for!
For a similar bag but at a much affordable price, Leoht, a New York start up also incorporated fashion with technology. Leoht designed a bag which features a built in battery, internal lighting to find our keys, lipsticks, pens and purses with ease and not 1 but 2 usb ports for charging our mobile phones.
The Leoht bag also contains an alcove which is a hidden secret compartment that keeps your valuables safe and out of sight. It offers wireless recharging via a charging plate and an external power panel to show how much battery is left.
During its Kickstarter campaign, the bag came in 2 colours, black and cognac and 2 styles starting at $149 US. With such great value, it’s no wonder Leoht successfully raised $160,398 with 967 backers in 37 days during their Kickstarter campaign in March 2015.
Because Leoht was successful in raising funds through Kickstarter, Bryan also made a claim against Kickstarter for financially benefitting from Leoht’s successful fundraising campaign.
Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Since its launch in 2009, over $1.5 billion have been pledged by over 8 million people.
Kickstarter charges 5% for successfully funded projects in the US and UK and a payment processing fee from 3%.
Kickstarter outlines on their website that if any claims are made against them, the person who used Kickstarter to fund their project must help them defend that claim. Kickstarter have also limited their liability in the amount of $100 US.
What started as an initial claim in August 2015, it took 9 months for the matter to be resolved. It could have gone to an expensive trial however, all claims have been dismissed and we can breathe a sigh of relief and still purchase these WTF light up bags!
If these prices are still too steep, we made our very own WTF light up bag! While the tech is not as invisible as the bags made by Ralph Lauren and Leoht, it gave us an insight on how challenging, inspiring and rewarding it is to make our own WTF products.
It also made us appreciate brands such as Ralph Lauren and Leoht for pushing the boundaries and bringing tech into fashion to help us make our lives easier as well as ensuring we still look stylish! And don’t worry, it is open source and Adafruit has provided instructions online so no legal issues here! Read Rachael’s blog on how she made her own wearable tech light up bag here.
This blog was written by Michelle Hua, former lawyer now writer and public speaker on wearable tech and fashion. Michelle is also the Founder & CEO of MadeWithGlove, a UK wearable tech company designing fashionable heated gloves for women. Michelle was recently awarded the Highly Commended Blogger Award 2016 in the Digital and Tech category by the UK Blog Awards. Follow Michelle on Twitter @MadeWithGlove.