Is Victoria Stealing Secrets?

A New York mother filed suit this week against Limited Brands Inc., the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, alleging that the lingerie store stole her idea for a strapless convertible bra. Katerina Plew says Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy ® 100-way strapless convertible bra infringes upon her May 2004 patent for a similar product, which she alleges the company knew about since at least April 2006.

Plew claims she spent about $12,000 to patent the bra and develop a prototype before setting up a meeting with a Victoria’s Secret executive to whom she had mailed a copy of the patent and a DVD showing a model in her bra. That meeting was abruptly cancelled and about a year later, Plew saw her bra — selling for about $50 – in a Victoria’s Secret store.

This case illustrates what is often a big problem for many solo inventors — proving that they were the first to invent. Be it a bra or new high-tech gadget, individual inventors are faced with the difficult burden of proving that they were the first to create their idea and many times this means coming up against large companies like Limited Brands. Of course, we don’t know what really happened in this case but we do know that Plew would be better off if she had used a foolproof digital time-stamping solution to seal her idea.

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