Vanity Fair Mills v. Olga Co. Cases of Interest >  IP >  Patent >  Obviousness

vanity fair mills v. olga

Vanity Fair Mills, Inc. v. Olga Company:

Facts: Olga has patents for women’s panty briefs and has marketed these briefs, Vanity Fair is also a manufacturer of women’s undergarments and marketed a brief that Olga alleges infringed its patents. There was a problem in creating a garment with sufficient elastic strength to flatten he abdomen without causing discomfort from binding the crotch and the legs and Olga came up with a solution of adding a piece of tricot material inside the original crotch piece to connect the front lower border of the girdle member with the crotch piece. Olga marketed and met with immediate commercial success for over 10 years before this action came. Vanity Fair marked the alleged infringing garment and this was its largest selling brief.
Procedural: Vanity Fair filed a complaint in the district court seeking a declaratory judgment that Olga’s patents were invalid and not infringed by Vanity Fair. Olga counterclaimed to seek a determination that said patents were valid and that Vanity Fair had infringed. The District Court held that the patents were valid bc Olga’s panty briefs were novel and far from obvious as demonstrated by the history of the unsuccessful efforts by other designers to solve certain basic structural problems.
Issue: Whether or not the district court erred in holding that Olga's patents were valid for being non-obvious.
Holding: The patents are invalid for obviousness over prior art.
Reasoning: Even though no one prior to Olga was able to solve the problem of this garment for over 20 years, these improvements were for style and comfort rather than for an innovative device. Olga is simply an originator and not an inventor. It is established by prior art references that the difference between the patents in suit and the prior art are not substantial enough to be termed invention so the patents cannot be sustained.

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