NEW YORK--The panty patent wars are heating up.
Alba-Waldensian Inc., which filed suit against I. Appel Corp. in Federal Court in North Carolina last month seeking to invalidate I. Appel's patent for women's panties with seamless stretch panels, was hit with a suit from its rival Friday.
I. Appel struck back against Alba-Waldensian in District Court here to stop it from infringing on its patent, which was issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on March 21.
I. Appel also filed suit Friday against Bali Co. Inc., a subsidiary of The Sara Lee Corp., for infringing on its panty patent.
The two suits charge Alba-Waldensian and Bali with violating I. Appel's patent in a "willful, knowing and deliberate" manner.
As reported, the Alba-Waldensian suit challenged I. Appel's patent on the grounds that Alba had been producing an identical product for more than a year before I. Appel applied for its patent in July 1992.
Jack Sullivan, an attorney with Charlotte, N.C.-based Bell, Seltzer, Park & Gibson, which represents Alba-Waldensian, called I. Appel's suit "reckless," and said Alba-Waldensian has "incontrovertible proof" that it sold panties using seamless stretch panel technology for more than a year before I. Appel applied for the patent.
Officials at Bali, a subsidiary of Sara Lee Corp., could not be reached for comment.
Alba-Waldensian has stated it first became aware of the I. Appel patent through an advertisement in WWD on March 21. In the ad, I. Appel threatened to sue any company that copied its panty patent. -- Fairchild News Service

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