I hope you don`t mind my unprofessional opinion. When it comes to whether an accessory or article of clothing can be patented, the answer is a definite "could be." There have been accessories and clothing that have received patents... I`m pretty sure. As long as it meets the standards of the patent office--nonobvious, unique, etc.
If the product you have in mind is just a new dress design... or what have you... then I think it gets more difficult.
Without knowing the specifics, and I understand why you won`t release that info, it would hard to render a definite opinion.
But I would suggest you research it further. Conduct some searched on www.uspto.gov... That might be a good first step.
I hope this helps... Maybe someone with a deeper background in this are can help.
I can relate to your situation here. I am also working on at prototype for a product on the market. The problem is its not very user friendly so I am building a business around re-developing and re-designing it. There are design patents you may be able to pursue for your clothing accessory. Like the swaynester said, go to www.uspto.gov for more information. I have a great industrial designer here in California who helped me design my product but I dont think he has done clothing design.
Yeah, unless the rules have changed in the past few years, the examiners do a prior art search and will reject your application if they find something just like yours. (We are a "first to invent" system, not a "first to file", although I hear they are thinking of changing it.) But it all depends. Take the hula hoop for example. There are hoops everywhere, but the only reason the hula hoop got a patent is because they put beads inside for "noise". LOL This was considered an "improvement". At least that`s how I think the story went. I haven`t done invention stuff in a while. Also, you have to look at the claims in other patents. Something completely unrelated to a fashion accessory could get your application rejected. But if it`s different enough and you can convince the examiner of that, then you have a chance. My hair accessory patent is here. If you scroll dow a bit to where it says "references sited" you`ll see the patents and prior art they looked at. If you click those you can read the abstracts. My hair accessory (a barette with interchangeable covers) was compared to a "Tiltable Bathtub Device".
When you do look at patents, you can click the "image" link and that will show you drawings of the invention. It will help you visualize. (Click help and download the plugin for seeing tiffs).
Hope that helps!
I`m not totally familiar with the blackberry lawsuit so I can`t really say. But if you get that book I mentioned it will tell you a ton! I actually wrote my own patent applications and did my own drawings by following that book. I had my claims double-checked by a patent attorney, but did a good enough job where they didn`t need much tinkering. I also went to the USPTO and met my examiners and worked with them to get my patents passed. I saved thousands by doing that. My hair accessory didn`t get far, but I did manage to license my other patent which was for making rubber-type stamps for crafting. It also fell through but I did manage to make some money before that happened. I made back a bit more than what I put out so that`s all I can ask.
Good luck! I think the book costs around $30. It used to anyway. You can find it at any major book store or Amazon. It`s published by Nolo Press.