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Seen and Saved: Protecting Innovation in High-Visibility Clothing Technology

Seen and Saved: Protecting Innovation in High-Visibility Clothing Technology

News 08/03/2024

In a world where split seconds can mean the difference between safety and disaster, high-visibility (hi-vis) clothing plays a critical role. From workers in construction, transportation and emergency services to cyclists and runners, this technology ensures wearers are seen by drivers and other potential hazards. But hi-vis clothing is not just about bright colours anymore. It is a culmination of innovative materials science, engineering, and design, demanding robust intellectual property (IP) protection.

There are two main components to hi-vis clothing:

- High-visibility fabrics: These come in two types - fluorescent and retroreflective. Fluorescent fabrics, often bright yellow or orange, absorb UV light and re-emit it as visible light, making the wearer stand out in daylight. Retroreflective materials, on the other hand, have tiny glass beads or prisms that reflect light directly back to its source, dramatically increasing visibility in low-light conditions.

- Design and configuration: The way hi-vis clothing is designed and configured also plays a crucial role in its effectiveness. This includes factors like the placement of reflective tape, the overall garment shape, and the use of contrasting colours to enhance daytime visibility.

The exact number of hi-vis fabric variations is difficult to pinpoint, as advancements are constantly being produced. However, numerous patented technologies exist in this field. For instance, W.L. Gore & Associates (makers of GORE-TEX®) holds patents for their PYRAD® fabric, a flame-retardant and high-visibility material ideal for firefighters. Similarly, ProViz has patents for their REFLECT360 technology, a microprismatic film offering exceptional retroreflectivity. VizLite® boasts a dual-technology fabric combining both fluorescent and retroreflective properties.

Standardisation and Certification

Being such a vital safety element at work, it is important that hi-vis garments are standardized, controlled by legislation, and certified as such. The current legislated standard certification is: EN ISO 20471. However, this standard sets minimum requirements, and there's still ample room for innovation in materials, design, and functionality that can further enhance safety and user experience.

The Future of Hi-Vis: Smart Textiles

The future of hi-vis clothing is increasingly intertwined with the exciting world of smart textiles. These fabrics integrate electronic components and sensors, transforming clothing into a platform for functionality beyond basic visibility. Imagine a hi-vis vest that monitors a worker's body temperature, alerting them to potential heat stress or sending vital data to emergency personnel in case of an accident.

The possibilities for innovation in smart hi-vis clothing are vast, and patenting plays a crucial role in protecting these advancements. Just like with traditional hi-vis fabrics, various aspects of smart textiles can be patented:

- Novel sensor technologies: Unique sensors embedded in the garment to measure temperature, heart rate, or other vital signs can be patentable.

- Data transmission methods: Innovative ways for the smart garment to transmit collected data wirelessly can be protected through patents.

- Software and algorithms: The software and algorithms used to analyse sensor data and generate meaningful insights can also be patentable.

The Importance of Strong IP Protection

Not all inventions qualify for patents. To be granted a patent, an innovation must be demonstrably new and non-obvious. This means it cannot be something readily apparent to someone with expertise in the field.  Trademarks, on the other hand, safeguard a company's brand identity by protecting logos, slogans, and distinctive names. Finally, design rights shield the unique appearance of a product, ensuring competitors cannot simply copy its visual aspects. By securing a robust combination of patents, trademarks, and design rights, hi-vis clothing companies can comprehensively protect their innovations and ensure they reap the rewards of their research and development efforts.

Beyond Visibility: Additional Considerations

While ensuring hi-vis clothing effectively enhances wearer visibility is paramount, other crucial factors merit consideration:

- Comfort and breathability: Hi-vis garments are often worn in demanding environments, so ensuring they are comfortable and breathable is essential for worker well-being and compliance. New fabric technologies promise lighter, more breathable materials that keep wearers cool and comfortable in hot weather.

- Sustainability: Eco-friendly hi-vis clothing made from recycled materials is becoming increasingly sought after. This trend not only benefits the environment but can also enhance a brand's reputation and appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.

- Washability and durability: Hi-vis clothing is subjected to regular wear and tear, so ensuring it can withstand frequent washing and maintain its visibility properties is crucial.


The landscape of hi-vis clothing is constantly evolving, driven by advancements in materials science, design, and technology. By embracing innovation and securing robust intellectual property protection, companies can develop life-saving technologies that enhance worker safety and well-being. Partnering with a qualified IP firm such as Secerna ensures these advancements are protected, allowing businesses to focus on their core mission of keeping people safe.

However, the world of intellectual property is not static. Patents, trademarks, and design rights can expire over time, meaning the once-protected inventions or designs become public domain. This highlights the importance of initiative-taking IP management. Secerna can be invaluable in navigating this dynamic landscape, offering services like:

  • Monitoring expiry dates and strategically managing renewals.
  • Conducting freedom-to-operate analyses to avoid infringement on existing protections.
  • Identifying opportunities arising from expired patents and design rights.

By understanding the ever-evolving landscape of intellectual property and Secerna, companies in the hi-vis fabric industry can ensure they stay ahead of the curve, capitalise on emerging opportunities, and continue to develop life-saving technologies that contribute to a safer working environment for all.


Contact Secerna today to discuss your IP strategy and ensure that you are positioned for success in this competitive market. Our team of commercially focused Chartered & European Patent Attorneys, operating across the UK and Europe, brings more than just legal expertise to the table.

We boast a deep understanding of your industry and its challenges, ensuring your intellectual property portfolio aligns seamlessly with your business goals.