Spanx fighting N.Y. shapewear brand over patents

Spanx Inc. is looking to a federal court to resolve a dispute with a New York manufacturer and retailer that says its patents are being violated by the Atlanta-based maker of slimming apparel.

In a complaint filed against Yummie Tummie earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, Spanx said claims that it is selling shapewear products that incorporate its competitor’s designs are unfounded.

Spanx was founded in 2000 by Sara Blakely, a Florida native who moved to Atlanta in the late ’90s. Her shapewear apparel has been so successful that last year Forbes magazine named Blakely, 41 at the time, as the youngest woman on its World Billionaires list.

Yummie Tummie was founded by “Real Housewife of New York” star Heather Thomson, who successfully sued Maidenform in a patent dispute.

The products at the center of the patent dispute are Spanx tanks and camisoles under the names Total Taming Tank, Top This Tank and Top This Cami.

“They have copied my original idea, which really was a game-changer for shapewear,” Thomson told NBC’s “Today” show this week.

Efforts were made Friday to reach Spanx for comment.

In one recent statement on the battle, Blakely’s company said: “Spanx was making shaping camisoles long before Yummie Tummie. We have no further comment. The papers filed in court provide our position at this time.”

In another statement, the Atlanta apparel maker said: “Spanx has had countless imitators through the years. Anyone can make a claim, but it doesn’t mean it has merit. Spanx has not infringed on any valid patent, and we will continue to make fabulous products for our loyal fans.”

In its complaint, Spanx, which is represented by Atlanta-based King & Spalding, said the designs of its products are different enough from Yummie Tummie’s that no patent infringement exists. The suit is filled with pages of shapeware illustrations.

In addition to seeking a judgment in its favor, the Atlanta apparel maker is seeking damages and legal fees. The patent dispute focuses on a fraction of Spanx’s products, which number more than 200 and are sold in more than 50 countries.