Here’s a recent Japanese patent application (JP2005042246), filed in 2003 and published in 2005. I don’t know the status now, but it is not necessarily patented yet. It’s probably undergoing examination now.
I won’t pretend to understand Japanese, so here’s the English translation of the abstract:
PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED: To obtain a jacket keeping the shoulder warm at a low cost for keeping the whole shoulder including the neck warm at bedtime through improving productivity.
SOLUTION: This jacket 10 keeping the shoulder warm is obtained by knitting and weaving a surface with regular texture and a rear face with pile stitch while forming a bottom 12c and a neckline 13 of a body from one cuff 11a through the body 12 toward the other cuff 11b, and connecting a turtleneck 14 to the neckline 13. The jacket is set, if necessary, with a knitted texture of polyurethane threads as an intermediate layer formed between the knitted textures of the surface and the rear face of both the sleeves 11 and the body 12, and a pocket 16 to hold a scent bag 15.
And here you thought that shrugs and boobholders were all about keeping glamorously warm. It’s not about your looks; it’s about your productivity, people!
I still feel the same about the aesthetic merits of such garments. But when you present it to me as a technical solution to the problem of maintaining productivity at bedtime, that’s different. And note the pocket for holding a scent bag!
(What you say? Oh, sorry, that should have read, “keeping warm… through improving productivity.” All your shoulder-warmers are belong to us.)
Don’t leap to the conclusion that a grant of this patent, should it be found patentable, would result in an embargo on all shrugs and shoulder-covering delicacies. First of all, patents are only supposed to be granted for new inventions. We’ve seen before that sometimes it’s not so easy to find prior art in a field like knitting. It’s easier for machine knitting-related development, since they’re more likely to be documented. But a patent should not prohibit others from doing something that really and truly was publicly known by others before the patent application was filed. (Sometimes it happens. And when it does, corrective measures can be taken, either by the patentee or by a prospective infringer.) Thus, for example, I should still be able to knit and wear any pre-2003 cropped sweater pattern in Japan, even if a patent did issue on this patent application (I didn’t see any foreign patent applications in my cursory search, but I wasn’t looking very hard).
Secondly, I assume from the abstract that the patent claims, which define the exclusive rights in the invention, do not simply cover a cropped, short-sleeved garment. That’s a big assumption, considering I can’t read the claims.
Instead, I’m guessing that if there’s anything patentable here, it would involve at the very least either the scent pocket or the intermediate layer of polyurethane fabric between the inner and outer faces of the fabric making up the garment, or perhaps the actual method of construction. The abstract itself describes that the garment is made of a fabric formed “by knitting and weaving a surface with regular texture and a rear face with pile stitch” which, in the absence of further detail in the application that I can’t read, sounds like a lot of machine-made fabric.
I do wonder, though: where does the scent pocket go in the women’s version? Right under the neck?