Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark in Diaper Battle

Article excerpt

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 the patent, granted in 1972, expires in 1989. …