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Body suit: Spanx sued for patent infringement

Models walk the runway wearing Yummie Tummie at a fashion show in New York in 2010.

Most reality-TV housewives stick to hair-pulling. But Heather Thomson of the Real Housewives of New York City delivered a legal smackdown to shapewear company Spanx, claiming in a suit filed last week in U.S. district court in New York that its slimming tank tops are copies of designs she patented and sells under her Yummie Tummie brand.

The suit filed by Times Three Clothier LLC, the company Thomson founded to sell her shapewear, asks for sales injunctions against the garments and unspecified damages, including punitive damages.

In January, Times Three sent a cease-and-desist letter to Spanx over the tank tops. Privately held Spanx, whose founder Sara Blakely was dubbed “the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire” by Forbes last year, responded last month by filing documents in federal court in Atlanta requesting a judicial declaration that Spanx was not infringing on Yummie Tummie designs and asking Thomson’s company to pay its legal fees.

“Anyone can make a claim, but it doesn’t mean it has merit,” Spanx said then in a statement that referred to “countless imitators” of its products. “Spanx has not infringed on any valid patent, and we will continue to make fabulous products for our loyal fans."

In the suit filed Tuesday, Times Three said, “Defendant Spanx by Sara Blakely intends to continue its willful and intentional infringement of Yummie Tummie’s design patents asserted herein.” Spanx did not respond to a request for comment.

Thomson told TODAY last month she was “in shock and appalled” by Spanx’s response, although this isn’t the first time she’s taken other garment producers in court. In 2011, Thomson got a $6.75 million settlement in a patent-infringement suit filed against underwear giant Maidenform. That year, it also sued the American subsidiary of manufacturer Li & Fung Group for patent infringement, which Women’s Wear Daily reported was settled for an undisclosed amount.

“I hope she’s ready for war,” Thomson told Women’s Wear Daily last month in reference to Blakely.

So far, it’s shaping up to be quite the battle of the bulge.