Design and Product Development

Patent Analysis of Adaptive Apparel Innovations From 1990 to 2020

  • Kristen Deanne Morris (Colorado State University)
  • Kayna Hobbs-Murphy (Colorado State University)
  • Hallie Kupfer (Colorado State University)


Patents provide a good measure of the foci of innovation in various industries. As the modern fashion industry moves toward greater inclusivity and representation of people with disabilities, so too do the adaptive apparel options available in the market. Recently, there has been an increased interest in innovations for adaptive apparel in the apparel industry. Therefore, the authors conducted a content analysis of all apparel patents published from 1990 to 2020 targeted toward people with disabilities to achieve this goal. The authors used the Google Patents database to search garment-related patents targeted toward people with disabilities. Based on the data analysis, the authors found increased trends in patenting innovations oriented to the disability community from 1990-2019, with a spike in 2015 and sustained interest since then. These patent trends also parallel the increased availability of adaptive apparel on the market. People with diabetes (n = 43) were the top disability when a specific disability was identified. The top three most patented garments were undergarments – briefs (n = 45), bibs, (n = 43), and socks (n = 34). The remaining 93 patents were spread across 15 garment categories. When looking at the patents' novelty claimed in this data set, six themes emerged from the data analysis. The themes were safety (n = 47), donning and doffing (n = 46), cleanliness (n = 41), physical and physiological comfort (n = 36), toileting (n = 26), and other (n = 19). Furthermore, when looking at the data through the lens of disability, clusters emerge of patents regarding the type of garment, disability, and novelty claimed. This study provides insight into how past inventors sought to solve garment-related issues for the disability community. Although there is patent activity regarding adaptive apparel, the landscape is not oversaturated, leaving opportunities for apparel researchers and designers who seek to improve garment design and eliminate clothing obstacles for people with disabilities. 

Keywords: adaptive apparel, patents, disability, patent analysis

How to Cite:

Morris, K. D., Hobbs-Murphy, K. & Kupfer, H., (2022) “Patent Analysis of Adaptive Apparel Innovations From 1990 to 2020”, International Textile and Apparel Association Annual Conference Proceedings 78(1). doi:



Published on
23 Sep 2022
Peer Reviewed