A Naples woman who created a snap-to-bra camisole says her idea was stolen.
J.D. De Sousa and his wife, Michelle, said they discovered their licensed camisole for sale in a Walmart store in New Orleans on Nov. 2, 2010.
"We were shocked," she said. "My heart was running so fast."
Naples-based BraNovations Inc., licensed marketers of the Cleava Snap To Bra Camisole, recently filed a lawsuit against New Jersey-based Ontel Products Corp., accusing them of patent infringement.
The lawsuit, filed June 4 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleges that Ontel's Cami Secret product infringes multiple claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,152,591, which was issued April 10 to the couple.
The six-page lawsuit, with 22 additional pages of documents, including exhibits, alleges that Scott Barlettano of Ontel purchased three Cleava products from BraNovations on June 21, 2010.
J.D. De Sousa said they "panicked" because they knew Ontel was a very, big organization and they didn't know their intent for future business. After contacting their patent attorney, De Sousa said, they shipped the order with a letter stating that several patents were pending.
Two of the three products were shipped to Ontel. One product was on back order.
"We never heard from them again," said De Sousa.
The lawsuit alleges the infringing products were sold online on QVC's website and in retail stores, such as Walmart, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Walgreens, CBS, Target, Sears and Kmart.
The lawsuit alleges that Ontel's acts of infringement are "irreparably harming and causing damage to BraNovations." The suit also alleges an amount in controversy in excess of $75,000 exclusive of interest and costs. No court date has been set for the case, which is pending on response from Ontel.
"We want the money that should have been ours given back to us," he said.
Ontel officials couldn't be reached for comment.
Michelle De Sousa invented the product in 2007. Cleava has used snaps to hold the fabric in place since the product began production. Since then, other companies have introduced similar methods using adhesives, Velcro and plastic.
"We would like to see justice prevail," J.D. De Sousa said.
Cleava is sold in all 50 states and internationally. The product is sold locally in seven stores: Bang's Salon, 3060 U.S. 41 N., Naples; Cindy's Stuff Trendy South Beach Designs, 11902 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs; Gulf Shore Apothecary Inc., 1400 Gulf Shore Blvd. N., Naples; Kari's Kreations, 830 Neapolitan Way, Naples; Kari's Kreations, 505 Fifth Ave. S., Naples; Lux Boutique, 4262 Gulfshore Blvd. N.; Naples; and Planet Beach, 6631 Orion Drive, Fort Myers.