Sleevey Wonders, owned by R&A Synergy (“R&A”), filed a copyright and trade dress infringement lawsuit against Spanx recently. R&A claims that Spanx released a new line of undergarments almost identical to their own Sleevey Wonders product after ordering the garments a few years ago.

R&A founder Ruthann Greenblat came up with the idea of Sleevey Wonders to introduce a sleeved undergarment, meant for layering underneath strapless or sleeveless dresses and tops, to the fashion industry. R&A argues that “no such category of garment existed,” before Sleevey Wonders was released in 2011.

Copycat designs

In May 2013, R&A received an order from Jillian Doyle, Assistant to Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx. Doyle ordered two Sleevey Wonders undergarments and had her purchase shipped to the company's headquarters in Georgia.

In 2016, R&A attempted to follow-up with Spanx about the potential of a partnership. Their lawyers reached out to Leslie Slavich, Spanx's General Counsel, to see if the giant hosiery brand had any interest in pursuing a partnership deal with R&A. Slavich never responded.

Not only is Spanx accused of copying the Sleevey Wonders' design, but R&A also argues that the company has stolen key elements from their brand's marketing campaign. Sleevey Wonders' hangtag, which features their undergarments being worn by paper dolls, was also copied by Spanx.

This marketing design is copyright-protected and also part of the lawsuit.

In addition, the company also alleges that their product benefits bulleted list was also copied by Spanx, as well as their slogan. Sleevey Wonders uses the phrase "Made in the USA with love" while Spanx is currently using "#Madewithlove" as their advertising slogan.

To add insult to injury, Sara Blakely stated on "Good Morning America" that she invented the concept of the tight arms undergarment. R&A is suing for monetary compensation and injunctive relief, which would require Spanx to stop selling their tight arms product immediately.

Court battles

This is not the first time Spanx has been dragged into a federal court for stealing a design.

In 2013, Yummie Tummie filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the company for copying several of their designs.

If the parties refuse to settle out of court, it may be a difficult legal battle for R&A. Copyright laws are in place to protect the original expression of ideas, but not the idea itself. The paper dolls marketing campaign and the product benefits list may not be protected under the current copyright laws.

Spanx has refused to comment on the lawsuit at this point.