Wearable Tech: A New Market - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Wearable Tech: A New Market

Wearable Tech: A New Market

Wearable technology combines two extremely lucrative industries, fashion and technology, creating a recipe for financial success, with sales of $3.5 billion in 2014. Annual sales are expected to reach almost $15 billion by 2021.1 With advances in data gathering and reliability, wearable technology is able to analyze collected data and provide useful information to users. From GPS tracking devices, activity monitors, computers in the form of glasses and watches, to baby-monitor onesies, and virtual reality headsets, wearable technology has no bounds.2 Fitness devices are used not just for personal exercise tracking, but also by coaches and athletes to track performance and ultimately provide a competitive advantage to users.3

 

Success in wearable technology requires designs to be considered cool. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is with brand power. Technology companies partner with fashion designers to create mass-market appeal in their wearable technologies. Fitbit worked with Tory Burch to create a fashionable jewelry line for the fitness trackers. Apple hired former fashion house executives, Angela Ahrendts of Burberry and Paul Deneve of Yves Saint Laurent, to assist with designing the Apple Watch. Google worked with Ray Ban and Diane Von Furstenberg for Google Glass. Co-branding is important to technology companies because endorsement from the fashion industry makes wearable tech infinitely more appealing to the public.4

 

Intellectual property protection is crucial to the continued success of wearable technology. Safeguarding trademarks is important to both designers and companies. Trade dress protection is available to products with distinctive designs, like the Nike Fuelband and Fitbit products, which boast distinctive shapes widely recognized by the public. Trade dress protection can last indefinitely, however, the product design must be aesthetic, not functional. Difficulty can arise in products where design and functionality are blended, like many of these wearable technology devices. Patents offer the most protection for wearable tech products. Patents give their owners the right to exclude others from offering, making, using, selling, and importing products that infringe on the patents. Comprehensive patent portfolios are crucial to protect products from competition and copies. Patents can be utility patents, which protect the functionality of a device, or design patents, which protect the design. Companies file both utility and design patents on their wearable technology products in order to ensure the most protection against infringement. Although there has not been a problem with counterfeit products in this industry, it is still important to obtain protection of the intellectual property.5

 

Wearable technology is not just about fashion. The possibilities in wearable technology are endless and can potentially help many crises across the world. UNICEF, ARM, and frog launched the Wearables for Good Challenge in May 2015, inspiring innovators across the world to develop wearable tech that is not just convenient, but fulfills a need and aids the world’s most vulnerable. Some of the highlighted inventions include; a device to track the distribution of medicine in post-disaster situations, a bracelet that purifies water, a digital necklace which tracks vaccination and mobilization of children, wearable soap to encourage hand washing, and a bracelet that measures temperature and sweat patterns to protect against Malaria.6

 

The anticipated growth of the wearable technology industry ensures we will be seeing many more products on the market in the next few years. Who knows what device we will be wearing next?

 


  1. Global Smart Wearables For Sports And Fitness Market Is Expected To Reach $14.9 Billion By 2021: Acute Market Reports, ABNewswire (Sept. 28, 2015), http://www.abnewswire.com/pressreleases/global-smart-wearables-for-sports-and-fitness-market-is-expected-to-reach-149-billion-by-2021-acute-market-reports_38653.html [http://perma.cc/V2SJ-WEVW].

  2. Lee Eulgen & Jessica Rissman Cohen, Protection for wearables, Intellectual Property Magazine (Sept. 1, 2015), http://www.intellectualpropertymagazine.com/patent/protection-for-wearables-111182.htm [http://perma.cc/5Y6M-JN2P].

  3. Global Smart Wearables For Sports And Fitness Market Is Expected To Reach $14.9 Billion By 2021: Acute Market Reports, ABNewswire (Sept. 28, 2015), http://www.abnewswire.com/pressreleases/global-smart-wearables-for-sports-and-fitness-market-is-expected-to-reach-149-billion-by-2021-acute-market-reports_38653.html [http://perma.cc/V2SJ-WEVW].

  4. Lee Eulgen & Jessica Rissman Cohen, Protection for wearables, Intellectual Property Magazine (Sept. 1, 2015), http://www.intellectualpropertymagazine.com/patent/protection-for-wearables-111182.htm [http://perma.cc/5Y6M-JN2P].

  5. Lee Eulgen & Jessica Rissman Cohen, Protection for wearables, Intellectual Property Magazine (Sept. 1, 2015), http://www.intellectualpropertymagazine.com/patent/protection-for-wearables-111182.htm [http://perma.cc/5Y6M-JN2P].

  6. Jennifer Klostermann, Wearables for Good and New Innovation, CloudTweaks (Sept. 25, 2015), http://cloudtweaks.com/2015/09/wearables-for-good-and-new-innovation/ [http://perma.cc/G5DG-E3RF].

Alexandra Thomas

Alexandra Thomas is a second year student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff writer for the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. She is fascinated with technology – especially products with a fashionable twist.