The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by sustainable supply chains, social responsibility and data analytics, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, smart fabrics, 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 Internet of Things in apparel: e-textilesBuy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 36,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the apparel industry, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

e-textiles is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Electronic textiles or e-textiles are fabrics that have electronic components embedded. These electronic components may function as sensors, displays, or interactive devices. e-textile manufacturing involves a combination of textile manufacturing techniques and electronic assembly methods. e-textiles can serve as wearable technology, interactive fashion, safety gear or even healthcare devices.

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. Jacquard is an Alphabet-owned platform that allows brands to integrate sensors and electronics into their products. The brand uses connectivity yarn and fabrics to create touch sensitivity and a gesture-controlled interface. Jacquard has created a variety of products with this feature, such as jackets, shoes, and bags.

In terms of application diversity, Sensoria leads the pack, while Alphabet and KMD Brands are in the second and third positions, respectively.

By means of geographic reach, Sanko held the top position, followed by DuPont and Bekaert.

e-textiles is currently a nascent and new area of opportunity that is set to see exponential growth in the coming years as supporting technologies continue to become more affordable and versatile.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the apparel industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Retail and Apparel.

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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.