The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by rise in e-commerce, data analytics, demand for convenience, and the growing importance of technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation. In the last three years alone, there have been over 57,000 patents filed and granted in the apparel industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in apparel: e-textiles. Buy the report here.

Smarter leaders trust GlobalData


Premium Insights Innovation in apparel: e-textiles

Buy the Report

Premium Insights

The gold standard of business intelligence.

Find out more

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

20+ innovations will shape the apparel industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the apparel industry using innovation intensity models built on over 36,000 patents, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, insulated composite fabrics, and reflective fabrics are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. e-textiles, personalized lookbooks, and AR-assisted measurements are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are functional undergarments and breathable fabrics, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the apparel industry

Electronic textiles (e-textiles) are a key innovation area in apparel

Electronic textiles, or e-textiles, are fabrics that have electronic components such as sensors embedded into them for functions like displays, or interactive devices. e-textile manufacturing involves a combination of textile manufacturing techniques and electronic assembly methods and can serve as wearable technology, interactive fashion, safety gear, or even as a healthcare device.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30 companies, spanning technology vendors, established apparel companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of e-textiles.

Key players in e-textiles – a disruptive innovation in the apparel industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to e-textiles

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Sanko 21 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 16 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 15 Unlock Company Profile
VF 14 Unlock Company Profile
DuPont de Nemours 9 Unlock Company Profile
Bekaert 9 Unlock Company Profile
Teijin 7 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 5 Unlock Company Profile
Kao 5 Unlock Company Profile
MTG 5 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 5 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 3 Unlock Company Profile
Okamoto 3 Unlock Company Profile
Murata Manufacturing 3 Unlock Company Profile
Payen 3 Unlock Company Profile
NIKE 2 Unlock Company Profile
Koninklijke Philips 2 Unlock Company Profile
Inman Mills 2 Unlock Company Profile
Sensoria 1 Unlock Company Profile
KMD Brands 1 Unlock Company Profile
STMicroelectronics 1 Unlock Company Profile
Duckwoo 1 Unlock Company Profile
adidas 1 Unlock Company Profile
QinetiQ Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Softronic 1 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 1 Unlock Company Profile
Infineon Technologies 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Sanko is one of the leading patent filers in e-textiles. Some other key patent filers in the space include Apple and Alphabet. Sensoria, another innovator in e-textiles, offers a broad array of smart garments for active customers, that are designed to monitor heart rate, detect cadence, and assess impact forces during fitness activities.

In terms of application diversity, Sensoria leads the pack, while Alphabet and KMD Brands stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Sanko held the top position, followed by DuPont, and Bekaert.

e-textiles have a wide range of applications in the apparel sector with garments that can monitor several aspects of the wearer’s health, enabling quick and effective care.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the apparel industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Apparel

Premium Insights


The gold standard of business intelligence.

Blending expert knowledge with cutting-edge technology, GlobalData’s unrivalled proprietary data will enable you to decode what’s happening in your market. You can make better informed decisions and gain a future-proof advantage over your competitors.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.