This one is for the law gurus.
Some of you may have seen the shirts we make: www.bafokkeshirts.com
If you haven't, please just take a quick look to get the background knowledge for the questions I'm about to ask.
Basically what's happened is a couple guys contacted us and we met with them regarding our shirts. Apparently these guys have a "patent" for shirts that are split down the center in the same manner as our shirts are split. In fact, they go so far as to say that the patent covers anything that is split down the center (from mugs to caps to posters, etc.).
They made very sure to point out from the second we sat down that they had this patent, and even produced some documents on their lawyers' letterhead, which they claimed was the patent. I looked over it and it was basically a bit of blurb about the registration of the patent on the first page. The second page was an image of a shirt that was a split of 2 sporting teams, with a couple numbers pointing to it (they couldn't explain to me what these numbers meant).
From what I could see, there was no description of the product or anything to indicate what it was, besides the picture on their lawyers letterhead.
My questions are the following:
1) What does a registered patent look like? What descriptions does it entail etc?
2) Can something like that even be patented?
From what I understand, reading from CIPRO's website, a patent is: "an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem."
I really don't see how it can be classified as an invention. In my mind it is a design, in which case you can't possibly register everything that is split down the center. This is why we applied for the Trademark on "Bafokke" and not on any design.
Just some extra information: These guys were not saying they want us to stop making the shirts. They make their own sporting shirts in similar fashion (nothing to do with Bafokke Shirts, though). They did, however, state that they wanted to "work with us."
They were very interested in who our supplier was and were hinting at perhaps getting some of their products on our website. The feeling I get is that they have seen our product and are simply trying to jump on the bandwagon and get a slice of the pie.
Thoughts? My mind is buzzing with thoughts on this matter and I'd like to see what you guys think.
I really don't want to consult a patent attorney if I don't have to.