DALLAS (AP) - Elastic waistbands helped revolutionize the disposable diaper business two years ago. Now the industry's titans are locked in a legal battle over the rights to the invention.
Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark, which together control about 80 percent of the $3.2 billion disposable-diaper business in the United States, are facing off in federal court here over the rights to a patent for the process used to make stretchy waistbands.
At issue is the technology used to produce the Luvs line of disposable diapers, made by Procter & Gamble, and Huggies, made by Kimberly-Clark.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, which last year reported $15.4 billion in total sales, also makes the Pampers line of disposable diapers and controls more than half of the market.
Kimberly-Clark, headquartered in Dallas, had overall sales totaling $4.3 billion in 1986. It claims to control about a third of the disposable diaper market.
The suit, brought by Procter & Gamble in August 1985, seeks to establish the company's exclusive rights to the elasticizing process.
``Kimberly-Clark manufactured the diapers with a willful disregard for the patent,'' charged Procter & Gamble attorney Allen Gerstein in opening arguments Wednesday.
Lawyers for Kimberly-Clark argued the patent covers materials already patented.
Procter & Gamble introduced its elasticized Luvs in 1985. But within months, Kimberly-Clark added elasticized waistbands to Huggies.
Gerstein said Procter & Gamble bought the patent in 1983 from Raychem Co., giving it the exclusive right to use a heat-shrinkable material to make its elasticized waistbands. He said …