Patent Law and the Female Body

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Written Description is a blog by Dr. Lisa Larrimore Ouellette.  The blog reviews “Recent Scholarship on Patent Law, IP Theory, and Innovation.” (Dr. Ouellette also is a 3L at Yale Law School.)  Today, Written Description features this post by Dr. Allison Tait, another Yale 3L, reviewing Kara Swanson’s Getting a Grip on the Corset: A Feminist Analysis of Patent Law.  Here is an excerpt of Dr. Tait’s review:

For Swanson, feminine interventions in patent-protected technology converge in the corset. The corset involved women as both consumers and litigants. The corset constructed gender by shaping the feminine form into a graceful silhouette with a small waist. And the corset narrated gender by calling into question the divide between public and private in Egbert v. Lippmann—the 1881 “corset case” that provided a foundational examination of the public use doctrine. The case turned on the question of Francis Lee Barnes’ right to her deceased husband’s patent for an improvement in corset springs. Problems abounded for Francis because the Court cast her as a public woman at a time when the public space of the market belonged to men and the private sphere of domestic relations to women.

Read the full review here.

-Bridget Crawford

image source: The Omaha Clinic, Volume 1 (1888), via The Condenser Magazine.
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