From Patent to Profit: The Story of SPANX and Sara Blakely

November 9th, 2023

Talking about Intellectual Property usually means discussing how much patents are really worth, especially with so many legal battles over patent rights and disagreements. Many believe that a patent is only as valuable as the money you have to back it up in court.

However, the success story of Sara Blakely with SPANX shows how valuable a patent can be, even for solo inventors and smaller companies.

The value of a Patent and other form of Intellectual Property

When Blakely trimmed the feet from her tights to fix a clothing issue, she did more than create a new type of underwear—she laid the groundwork for what would become a billion-pound business. Recognising the potential of her brainwave, Sara invested £5,000 of her own savings to patent her product. That patent solidified the foundations of SPANX, a brand that has transformed women’s fashion with its silhouette-smoothing garments.

The strength of a patent turned Sara Blakely’s clever idea into a worldwide success, making her one of the richest self-made women. Her smart decision to legally protect her idea was key. Without it, SPANX might have just been a passing trend instead of the well-known brand it is today.

With headquarters in Atlanta, GA, SPANX has broadened its reach well beyond its beginnings. Sara was proclaimed the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire by Forbes in 2012 and was acknowledged among TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. Her brand’s ethos extends beyond apparel; it is about empowering women to feel fabulous about themselves and their potential.

Bringing Ideas to Life: The Crucial Stage of Prototyping

Sara’s strategy in developing SPANX was deliberate and propelled by her conviction in the prototyping process. “Every person in their life has had a million-pound idea,” she remarks. However, it’s the act of taking steps that differentiates a triumph from a failure. By bringing a prototype to life, Sara could scrutinise its strengths and limitations—a wealth of insight that was priceless in navigating the marketplace.

The Success

Despite her absence of experience in business, fashion, or retail, Sara’s belief in her idea was resolute. From her days of peddling fax machines door-to-door, she took the audacious leap of backing her invention, understanding that a patent was more than just a piece of paper—it was the shield for her inventiveness and diligence.

Today, with SPANX merchandise available in over 50 countries and the brand’s impact evident from media to retail outlets, Sara Blakely’s narrative serves as a powerful illustration of how protecting one’s intellectual property can shape an industry and alter the world.

Want more information about where to start? 

See our web pages for guidance on idea development and how to patent your idea .

What's your idea worth?

Do you have a product idea that might be worth something? Request a confidential review with one of our Innovation Coach.

What's your idea worth?

Do you have a product idea that might be worth something? Request a confidential review with one of our Innovation Coach.