“Athleisure” is defined by Wikipedia as a trend in fashion in which clothing designed for workouts and other athletic activities is worn in other settings, such as in the workplace, at school, or at other casual occasions. The term includes yoga pants, tights, sweaters, leggings, and shorts that are cauterized as fashionable dressed up sweats and exercise clothing.
No matter how the term is defined one thing is clear, athleisure has become part of the wardrobes for both men and women to be worn in nearly every phase of life; at work, after work, during the weekend, and over holiday periods.
In a July 16, 2014 article by Eric Wilson entitled, “Now We Know, Just How Far Should You Take the Athleisure Trend?” Wilson stated that “Athleisure” was the latest buzzword in fashion and that it was one of those made-up terms that are so ridiculously nonsensical as to be perfectly descriptive. The article states that Athleisure is bigger than a trend, as evidenced by the people who wear yoga pants everywhere.
In a November 13, 2018 article by Finnegan, Henderson, Garrett & Dunner, LLP, entitled “Protecting U. S. Companies in China’s Athleisure Boom” we are told that the Athleisure boom is not only growing in the United States but that its popularity among millennials in China is also booming.
This growth has spurned the naming of products by manufacturers to set their products as being different than similar products of other manufacturers. Thus the need for name and design protection through the registration of trademarks, patents, and copyrights. By way of example and not referring to any actual brand name known to be in existence, consider a manufacturer of sweat pants normally used for pure athletic purposes, changes the design by adding distinctive pockets and a decorative design down each leg. The new garment is manufactured in China and is named “Fancy Pants, For Leisure and Fun” An intellectual property lawyer is retained to register a design patent for the garment, register the name as a trademark, and copyright the descriptive language in both the United States and in China.
No sooner as the required documents are filed with the appropriate governmental authorities in both China and The United States, claims of infringement arise by a manufacturer in the United States who also manufactures in China. The claimant contends that its registered product bearing the name “Fantasy Pants, For Every Day Wearing” is confusing to the Fancy Pants name, logo, and description that its registration should be denied in all respects. This state of affairs provides work for intellectual property lawyers in both the United States and China. The article cited above provides a good explanation of the differences between Chinese and United States intellectual property laws. It points out the need to thoroughly research the existence of similar names and logos. Also an unregistered name might also claim infringement because the name had become so well known that the newly registered name causes confusion among consumers of the product.
If one Googles “Athleisure” the number of sites utilizing that name is enormous for both men’s and women’s clothing that seems to fit that category. Examples are Macy’s and J.C. Penny’s websites that display everything from yoga-style pants, to shirts, shorts, sweatshirts, and dozens of other categories that appear to fit the definition. Credit is given to Lululemon with the start of the Athleisure trend by the popularity of its Yoga pants which are worn for spinning classes to shopping trips and the new trend for Friday casual days at the office.
Dress at the office has also undergone a shift from formal to casual. Men’s suits have given way to sport coats and slacks, and ties are seen less frequently even on regular days at the office. However, ties remain a part of gentlemens’ wardrobes and can be purchased on the web from five to hundreds of dollars. We are reminded of the Curb Your Enthusiasm TV episode when the Larry David character recommends a lawyer to a good friend and the friend visits the lawyer on casual Friday. The friend tells the lawyer who appears in jeans and a sport shirt, “Sorry, I want a lawyer who looks like a lawyer.” We have observed some law firms that require men to wear coat and tie and women to wear conservative dresses or skirts and blouses that cover the arms every day of the week. While other firms have relaxed dress codes that incorporate tasteful Athleisure.
What does the future hold for Athleisure? Your guess is as good as mine, perhaps even better.
Benjamin S. Seigel, Esq.
Counsel to Greenberg & Bass