Each week, Just Style’s journalists analyse data on patent filings and grants that illustrate innovation trends in our sector. These patent signals show where the leading companies are focusing their research and development investment, and why. We uncover key innovation areas in the sector and the themes that drive them.  

This new, thematic patents coverage is powered by our underlying Disruptor data which tracks all major deals, patents, company filings, hiring patterns and social media buzz across our sectors.  

Data compiled by GlobalData reveals the overarching theme of sustainability accounted for most apparel patent publications between 1 April and 30 June 2023 with the primary theme listed as the environment and the secondary theme listed as climate change.

Apparel patent publications by theme for Q2 2023

Source: GlobalData

The data shows the number one environment theme had 414,227 published patents, followed by climate change with 263,268 patents.

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence sat in third place with 132,739 published patents and the future of work took fourth position with 82,989 patents.

This was a steep drop for the artificial intelligence theme which sat in first place during the same period last year with 9,200 patents.

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By GlobalData

Why is sustainability the main theme for apparel patents in Q2 2023

Tackling sustainability throughout the apparel supply chain is no longer an option in 2023 with legislation on the horizon that will make fashion brands accountable for all waste.

The EU Commission’s proposed rules are set to make fashion brands and retailers financially responsible for the full lifecycle of textile products, including waste within the EU.

While the US is arguably slightly further behind with the California SB707, known as the Responsible Textile Recovery Act of 2023 being withdrawn from a legislative hearing last month. However, the American Apparel & Footwear Association explains the delay will give all stakeholders time to consider what will be the US’ first textile Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme.

In the meantime, fashion brands and retailers are concentrating on circularity programmes and schemes that can reduce carbon emissions, water usage and waste during the manufacturing process.

This includes designing fashion for circularity to reduce waste in the long term, which would explain why the two main themes for apparel patents in 2023 are related to the environment and climate change.

It is highly likely that sustainability will continue to be a key patents theme for the foreseeable future given a recent report by the European Court of Auditors suggests the circular transition is at a standstill in many European countries. It explains this is due to an insufficient focus on designing products for circularity and the vast majority of funds being used to manage waste.