Etsy and I have parted ways. Actually they kicked my shop to the curb. Why? They are cowards who caved to pressure from from a large corporation over IP rights to … wait for it… the garter. A tube of lace.*
tl;dr: How the mass manufacture company who own Bandalette told Etsy to remover all pairs of lace garters from their site or they would sue them over a patent they did not have and IP they did not own and Etsy shut down listings and makers shops to comply.
Freolla LLC are the company who produce “Bandalette” also described as Thigh Bands with Anti Chaffing Properties. And in their T&Cs they state:
Patent status is “pending”. Our Products. All features, specifications, products and prices of products and services described on this Web site are subject to change at any time without notice. (16/11/16)
Patent pending means that they don’t actually have a patent and may never be granted one. In fact ANYONE can claim that they have a patent pending if they fill out the paperwork to apply for a patent or consult a patent attorney. This means that they DO NOT actually own the IP to an idea until after the patent is granted. In cases where an idea is historical and in the popular domain for (in this case well over 100) years, it is extremely unlikely to be granted a patent. It is more likely to be granted a patent on a process. And we will get to that in a moment…
Garters, historically going back beyond the middle ages, are strips of woven cloth that tie around the leg at either just under the knee or on the thigh to hold up stockings. With the invention of elastic, tubes were made of lace with a single side or back seam to which strips of elastic were attached either via casings or zigzag stitch creating elasticated garters. These were made exceptionally popular during the 1920s onwards. When stockings became cheap(er) and more freely available post WW2, elastic started to be sewn into the tops of stockings combining both garter and stocking creating the concept of “hold ups”. This did not exclude people from continuing to use garters to hold up regular stockings. In the late 60’s and early 70’s impregnating lace with bands of latex replaced elastic. Then in the 80’s to 90’s “invisible elastic” or clear latex elastic came on the market and was used for all sorts of purposes; sewn into the edges of swim suits to keep them from riding up, as bra straps for strapless tops, and sewn into garters and stocking tops (cheaper and faster manufacture). Garters that are worn on the thigh have been around for centuries. Elasticated garters for over 100 years. Latex garters for at least 40 years. This “concept” is in the public domain, and is already in world wide use. Fact, you can still buy “stocking tops” or the lace garter portion of a stocking, pretty much everywhere. This is why “hold ups” cannot be patented as a concept. Neither can stockings, girdle shorts, anti-chaffing shorts, the lot.
While you can’t patent a concept in regular and historical use, you can patent a process. McDonalds don’t own the right to the hamburger, they own the patent on the Big Mac. On Freolla/Bandelette’s own site they define the process of what is and WHAT IS NOT a Bandelette. They even show images of products that they specifically say is not their product and NOT their IP. They call them out as fakes. Now legally, if these other products do not claim to be anti-chaffing devices, use registered trademarked names, or employ the same manufacturing process – then they are not stealing or conflicting with Freolla’s IP. Patented or not. I do not make my garters in the same way. I do not use the same materials. I do not follow the same processes. For all intended goods and purposes they are not the same product.
In order to corner the market on all similar products, Freolla LLC are trying to block and own the concept of the garter – full stop. As part of this action, Freolla’s team of researchers and lawyers have scoured Etsy (provable by Etsy’s shop tools which traces back customer referrals and ip addresses) for anything resembling a lace garter and reported the product as having stolen their IP. Despite there being no case for IP theft, Etsy complied.
Try searching on Etsy for “garter” or “thigh garter”. Results will be single wedding garters and bdsm cage garters. Not a single result for a matching pair of lace garters deeper than 2-3 inches. Freolla LLC have threatened Etsy with litigation over theft of IP and Etsy have sent letter to everyone who had a pair of deep lace garters and had them take down the listing or removed the shop permanently. No discussion.
In Etsy’s defence, I had first listed my garters as “Thigh Garters / Bandelette” which at their request I dropped “Bandelette” and left “anti-chaffing” in the property description. The second time they told me to drop the item, I removed “anti-chaffing” from the description. That should have been sufficient. But Freolla still were unhappy and demanded it be removed so Etsy shut my storefront and banned me for life. Unfortunately, when discussing this with other maker friends I was dismayed to find that this is not the first time, nor even the may tens of times that Etsy have removed listings and storefronts for unsupported IP issues.
And here is the kicker – Freolla LLC have NEVER contacted me in ANY way about selling the same product on my main website or on any other platform. Could it be because they have no grounds to do so? Could it be that their claims only extend to the US and my business is in the UK where they have no claims at all? Way to go Etsy, deciding to throw away their core principals to be a market place for and handmade and vintage goods by small businesses and independent designers, following the easier path to throw their loyal sellers and crafts persons under the bus and cave to Freolla’s legal threats.
Well, fuck you both.
Coming up in PART TWO: Make your own thigh garters at 1/4 of the price!
- How to make the pattern to fit you!
- Where to buy the lace and supplies
- How to apply silicone beading or clear elastic tape
- Make your own custom hold up stockings!
- Add suspender clips!
- Add harnesses for flasks, phones and credit cards!
*All opinions are my own.