Patently arrogant

Jinjer sent me a link to a company called Rebecca and Drew. She knew it’d interest me because they’re making blouses sizing by bra size and she knows I have long advocated sizing women’s blouses and dresses by bra size rather than dress size. See my post Alternatives in women’s sizing. Anyway, initially I was glad to hear that Rebecca and Drew sized their blouses by bra size until I saw that they purport to have a patent pending on the affair…excuse me? I just about fell out of my chair; this is just about one of the most arrogant things I’ve ever seen a DE company do. They think cutting to bra size is unique? I’ve been doing it since they were in diapers; do they honestly believe that we were too stupid to think of it first? Are they so green that they sincerely and honestly believe that:

1) They’re the first to come up with the idea?
2) They can garner royalties from people who adopt the practice?
3) They can stop others who are already doing it?

Since I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, I’d love to know how they plan on stopping me and everybody else who’s been doing it since before Rebecca and Drew learned to tie their own shoes. Sure, it’s a great idea and I applaud them for adopting the practice because not nearly enough manufacturers are doing it but they’re far from being the first to do it, they’re not the sole practioners of it and I’d love to see how they plan on enforcing it.

What many people don’t realize is that just because you can file for a patent, it doesn’t mean you’ll get one. Not only must you supply proofs of your claim, the general public has the right to file objections to what you consider to be your intellectual property. If you’re interested in the whole issue of patents, your first stop should be the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Read the basic facts about patents to have your most common questions answered.

Which brings me to the whole issue of protesting patents because you can be very sure a patent examiner will get my two cents when R & D’s application crosses his desk.

Protests by a member of the public against pending applications will be referred to the examiner having charge of the subject matter involved. A protest specifically identifying the application to which the protest is directed will be entered in the application file if: (1) The protest is submitted prior to the publication of the application or the mailing of a notice of allowance under rule 1.311, whichever occurs first; and (2) The protest is either served upon the applicant in accordance with rule 1.248, or filed with the Office in duplicate in the event service is not possible. For more detailed information on protesting a patent, you may visit our Web site for the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) Chapter 1900.

According to the manual of patent examining procedure, the first thing is to search for the patent (pending or granted) by keywords. I searched under just about any keyword you can think of including “sizing” (for which there were 400+ patents, few of them apparel related) and came up with nothing. So according to the database (going back to 2001) Rebecca and Drew don’t have a patent pending. Maybe they only intended to stave off competition in the market -personally, I don’t think their blouses are very attractive- by saying they have one pending? Regardless, I’ll be checking the database every couple of months just in case. In the meantime, cut away! Please do cut your women’s tops, blouses, dresses and shirts according to cup size.

Feel free to add the names of companies you know of who are already sizing by cup size by using the comments feature so that I can contact those companies in the event that a patent protest is necessary.

And by the way ladies, the average bra size is a 36 C…go wild!

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  1. Mia,
    What do you mean, working FOR a custom clothier? Do you mean, acting as their patternmaker?

    As a custom clothier, I can tell you: Kathleen’s system of blocks is not always relevant. Because you’re working with one person at a time, you’ll make a fitting shell for them specifically, after you meet them. I mean, even all the combinations of waist circumferences, hip circumferences, and bra sizes (and teh math is mindboggling) still won’t get you a pattern that fits any particular woman PERFECTLY, so why waste all that energy when you can wait until you meet her?

    Anyway, from what I understand (please correct me if I’m wrong, Kathleen), the best advantage of block is not that it makes the fit great, but that it makes it loads easier to create patterns for new styles/designs that are similar in cut or fit to the old ones.

    So, say you (or the “custom clothier” you work for” offer a limited range of similar styles. each stlye would be based off of a single block in a single, mid-range size. Fit is not the issue yet.

    When you meet your client, you make a fitting shell based on her measurements (and you’ll need more than 3) and posture (which doesn’t always show up on the measuring tape)–and use that fitting shell to alter your pattern to size.

    Now, to me, the best part of making blocks by bra size–and this seems to be what has done–is that, realistically, designs created for A-cup gals don’t look good on D cup gals, even if it’s sized up. So, as a designer, you’re doing a better job if your designs look good on their intended market.

    I’m repeating myself here, but any designers out there who are listening: Revolt! Stop drawing your designs on 6’4″ waifs!!!! How do you expect it to look good on a normal (and beautiful!) woman if you design to a monster?

  2. Laüra says:

    here’s a link for a British company that makes tops by cup size.
    They cater for the D+ cup sizes and have been very successful in the UK. They even have several retail outlets in big cities. They have quite a wide range of tops (most of them are on sale at the moment). Here’s the fitting guide: I have a feeling the tops go up to an E or F (or even FF cup). They’ve been very friendly and helpful on the phone the couple of times I’ve called them.

    I really hope this idea catches on. As a full-busted lady myself I find sizing in shops really frustrating. I can get round my problem a bit because I sew, but otherwise I have to stick to lycra stretchy tops.

    I don’t see why this new company only drafts up to a D-cup. I think if you’re going to take the trouble to draft by cup size than you really should go over a D-cup as that’s where the hole in the market is. My A/B cupped sister has no problem finding well-fitting shirts! It baffles me too that that big home patterns manufacturers draft to a B-cup when, as Kathleen says, the average woman is a 36C.

  3. Christy Fisher says:

    I looked at their chart. It seems like they are just going “between sizes on a pattern envelope”..almost like the old half-size system in a way..
    nothing new that I see..
    Swimsuit manufacturers have been doing cup sizes for years, of course – and many of them have halters and camisoles in their lines..
    I doubt the “pending patent” will be approved.

  4. Mike C says:

    To some extent it depends on what they are actually trying to patent.

    Trying to patent the generic “size tops by cup size” would obviously be difficult.

    Patenting a specific formula for equating cup size to pattern measurements might be a different matter.

    I’ve worked on several patents in my career (non-apparel related) and they are enormously complex beasts.

  5. jinjer says:


    good point about the math that may underlt the “pending” patent (although the same type of reasoning birthed biotech patents, which are bad, bad, bad). If they invented some kind of radial darfting method, for example, that might be cool.

    Not that I beleive that at all. While I thing some of the top ideas are kinda cute, the tops themsleves are all princess-seamed, and unflatteringly pointy.

  6. Christy Fisher says:

    Mike: I read “I’ve worked on several patents in my career (non-apparel related) and they are enormously complex beasts.”..and at first I read “breast” instead of “beast”..and it totally derailed my train..

  7. christy fisher says:

    Total lurker:
    I landed on Silouhette patterns awhile back too.. they have their own site:
    Here’s their blurb.. you are right on!
    Everywhere I traveled, women would tell me over an over again, “None of the patterns fit me like they should and the instructions are always so outdated.”

    For the past seven years I’ve been working on a line of patterns that actually fit well and need only minor length adjustments. Silhouettes are different from other patterns in a number of ways: Accurate lengths that are based on your height, No-Gap armholes or necklines, “W” sizing for the proportional fit, and patterns that are based on your cup size!

    Just browse this site to learn more!

    Peggy Sagers

  8. Dani says:

    Has anyone noticed variations in bra sizes? For example, I’ve worn a size 34 B in Playtex brands for over 20 years. I’m in Victoria’s Secret the other day, trying them on, and I find that I wear a 34 D in all of their styles! As flattering as that may have been to me, I know that time & gravity certainly have not been that kind, and I haven’t gained more than 5 pounds over the last 10 years either. I guess I assumed that bra sizing was more standardized than regular clothing. (see Kathleen’s 6 part series on “Alternatives in women’s sizing” beginning in May 2005) If this variation in sizing is present in bras, how would one know what they were getting when ordering a blouse based on bra sizing?

  9. jeanette says:

    Well… I was going to mention Silhoutte Patterns has been marketing patterns by bra size for years but Peggy Sayers beat me to it! They are nice patterns and fit well.

  10. Meggeicat says:


    I also searched for a patent and if they have actually submitted an application it is not available under either of their names. They may only have gotten as far as a patent attorney.

    You know how much I enjoy browsing the patent office (remember.. kewpie dolls) and I’ve seen basic origami and paper dodecohedrons receive design patents.

    I search from this page:
    The design patent classes are at the bottom of the page. The design patents seem to require much less information than a process patent.

    For instance here is an Oleg Cassini patent that I snagged for the Frankie Files.
    For specifications he says that he invented an ornamental design for a dress and his claim is just as short. He did not have to submit the pattern for the dress.

    Are they trying for a process patent or a blouse design patent? Their notice doesn’t say. Don’t most patent pending notices carry the patent number? I don’t know. I just browse the patents out of curiosity.


  11. Brucie says:

    It may be that you cannot find the patent application for Rebecca and Drew, because patent applications are made available 18 months after the date of filing. It is likely that the Rebecca and Drew patent was filed less than 18 months ago.

  12. Jenna says:

    Hello Kathleen,
    I had a comment to post on your November 10, 2005 entry called “Patently arrogant” (yes, quite a blast from the past):

    The patent application in question was just published a couple of weeks ago: the publication number is 20060277773, and the two designers named on the Rebecca and Drew site are listed as two of the co-inventors, so you can search for the published application using the “search for…” hyperlink in the body of the post.

    Its status is also publicly available now. An examiner has been assigned to the case, but the application has not actually been examined yet, so it’s quite possible that the claims that issue will be different from what was published.

  13. David S says:

    They’ve now got a patent issued for the process: 7,325,317. They’re claiming that, prior to their invention, clothing patterns weren’t actually adjusted for cup size. They present an algorithm to make the adjustments, but I’m not qualified to judge whether it works or not. (It looks a whole lot like instructions I’ve seen in pattern books predating their claim of invention, with added algebra. ) I very much suspect it’s not an actually enforceable patent, but one granted because the patent office gives patents to nearly anyone that can write an application the examiner doesn’t understand. The purpose of these patents is usually to say “Look, we’ve got a patent!” to potential investors, and to write threatening letters to scare people who are infringing the invalid patent. Some substantial fraction of the people who receive a threatening letter will pay up, even if the threats are groundless. It’s of course possible that they think they invented this (or, at least, the lookup table the patent covers).

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