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Snuggie Cashes In Where Others Failed

According to Slanket Chief Executive Officer Gary Clegg, the Snuggie people poached his idea several months after QVC started selling the Slanket in summer 2007. That was 10 years after Clegg's freshman year of college at the University of Maine, when he was struggling with an age-old, cold-climate, couch-potato problem.

"My remote control signal wouldn't work from beneath the blanket," he says. "I expressed my frustration to my roommate, and he was like, 'Just cut a hole in the blanket.' And within five minutes, I had this idea. I went home that Christmas, and I asked my mom if she could make a blanket with sleeves."

After a year of successful QVC sales, "we were planning that summer to knock ourselves off with a cheaper, discounted version," Clegg says. He was set to approach brick-and-mortar retailers with the cheaper version of the Slanket, dubbed the Snuzzle, when the Snuggie attacked the TV-sales market in the fall of 2008. Snuggie hit retail stores in September 2009.

"They undercut us and got into Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, etc.," Clegg says.

Clegg says he tried to protect the Slanket by applying for a patent several years ago, during the product's infancy, but to no avail.

"To be patentable, an invention must be new and useful, and must not be an obvious combination of known inventions," says Jeffrey Schox, a patent attorney and founder of the Schox Patent Group in San Francisco. "Most inventions satisfy the 'novelty' and 'utility' requirements, but only a few satisfy the 'non-obvious' requirement. Essentially, the sleeved blanket is just a robe that's on backward, and robes have been around for several millennia, so there's no way to patent that."

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