Functional Clothing?

By Maggie Sicklinger [November 16th, 2010] 

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The Coventry Telegraph (UK) reported this week on the Lord Stafford Awards contestants.  The award showcases and celebrates collaboration between universities and businesses in the West Midlands.

Annabel McMahon started Rackety’s clothing line for disabled children.  The majority of her customers suffer from cerebral palsy, downs syndrome and autism.  Annabel noticed that the apparel market for disabled consumers was “not quite healthcare and certainly not fashionable.”  She had several years experience designing clothing for major UK high street stores and wanted to “change the choices and perceptions surrounding disability and adaptive clothing forever”.   Her designs are colorful, comfortable, fashionable, easy on, easy off and even functional.   

But the reason she is being considered for the award is that after visiting the Defense Medical Rehabilitation unit in Surrey she designed the Richmond Trousers.  The trousers are made for soldiers who wear external metal frames for long periods of time to allow their bones to heal.  She named them after Colonel David Richmond, an officer injured in the Afghan war.  Annabel commented, “Military personnel are used to looking smart and there was a certain issue around dignity, especially as they were already struggling to get back into a routine after the injury.”  The trousers are designed to cover the metal frames and prevent infection.  They have become so popular that she now plans to expand the market to civilians recovering from surgery or accidents.  While I don’t know the extent of protection afforded clothing designs in the UK, this line certainly seems to meet the US non-obvious and functional US test for patents, even though clothing is normally excluded.

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