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Absorbent activity: a proliferation of patents.

Absorbent Activity: A Proliferation Of Patents With several patent infringement suits making news in recent months, the spotlight has focused even more sharply on what patents have been issued to whom in the past year.

Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX, always an aggressive patent pursuer, continues to lead the way this year, with 17% of the 60 diaper patents included in this survey being assigned to it. Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, remains right behind its primary rival in patent activity, with 15% of patents issued. James River Nonwovens, now part of the Fiberweb Group, follows with 6% and Weyerhaeuser, Tacoma, WA, Chicopee, New Brunswick, NJ, and Molnlycke, Sweden, each accounted for 5% of total patents issued.

Overall, foreign involvement fell slightly from last year, when it held 24% of patents examined. This year only 17% of patents included in the survey were issued to foreign companies. Of these, only one Japanese company, Uni-Charm, Ehime, was represented. While the bulk of foreign patents were issued to Western European companies. No Canadian companies had patents included in this survey.

In examining the portfolio of patents issued, it appears that patents on specific "bells and whistles" for diapers have calmed down somewhat from previous years, with only one patent particularly on superabsorbents and only five on specific elastic means or complete systems for fixing or improving some part of the diaper article.

The vast majority--42% of the patents--described some type of absorbent article or pad that did not distinguish according to end use. These could be broken down into two general categories. About 56% of absorbent product patents included some type of product innovation, whether it was a type of elastic, moisture barrier, containment pocket, internal wicking means or tear line guide, just to name a few. The other 44% described an absorbent pad or article and its method of manufacture or typical construction.

An Absorbent Pad And...

While the majority of absorbent product patents included in this survey did not specifically describe an application such as adult incontinence, sanitary protection or infant diapers, most of them did get very specific about what was included in the absorbent pad. A sampling of some of the patent literature issued on absorbent articles with particular attributes include:

Absorbent Article With Tear Line Guide (4,882,213), Weyerhaeuser: This patent is for an absorbent article with a body of two regions of densified fiber. There is a weakened area within the first region to define a line that terminates in the second region and composes a tear line along which the article may be torn.

Absorbent Core Having A Dusting Layer (4,888,231), Procter & Gamble: This is an absorbent layer with a topsheet, liquid impervious backsheet and a dual layer absorbent core. The core has a shaped component that quickly collects and distributes discharged body liquids and an insert component that absorbs and retains the liquids. The core has a dusting layer with hydrophilic fiber and a primary layer with a combination of hydrophilic fiber and discrete particles of absorbent gelling material air laid over the dusting layer.

Absorbent Product With Hydrophobic Acquisition Layer (4,885,204), Hercules: This patent is for a laminated structure suitable for part of an absorbent product. Positioned next to a fluid permeable topsheet is a hydrophobic acquisition layer with thermally bonded hydrophobic staple fiber and polyolefin pulp making up from 5-35% and wood fluff pulp making up 65-95%.

Absorbent Pad With Reinforcing Member To Resist Deformation (4,886,513), Kimberly-Clark: This absorbent pad has a liquid impermeable baffle that cooperates to enclose an absorbent as well as a reinforcing means for shaping the device to conform to the body of the user.

Disposable Absorbent Garment Having Elastic Outer Cover And Integrated Absorbent Insert Structure (4,872,871), Kimberly-Clark: Patented is a disposable absorbent garment with a breathable elastomeric nonwoven outer cover, an absorbent insert with a liquid impermeable barrier and a liquid permeable bodyside liner with an absorbent composite between.

Absorbent Article With Internal Wicking Means (4,880,419), Chicopee: This absorbent article has at least two discrete superabsorbent containing layers and a continuous wicking means that extends between the layers.

Thin Absorbent Articles Containing Gelling Agent (4,935,022), Procter & Gamble: Patented is a disposable absorbent article made of a liquid impervious, elongated backing sheet, a liquid pervious topsheet and a layered absorbent core between the two sheets. The core has an upper fluid acquisition/distribution layer and a lower fluid storage layer, both made of a combination of stiffened, twisted, curled cellulose fibers. Particles of a hydrogel forming polymer gelling agent are thoroughly dispersed among the fibers.

Disposable Diaper Patents

As a category, Disposable diapers also drew its fair share of patents issued this past year. A full 20% of patents were issued for disposable diapers, either with specific features as described in the absorbent product patents, or with varying methods of constructions. A representative sampling is included; the remainder can be found in the accompanying sidebar.

Refastenable Diaper Sheet (4,880,422), Tredegar Industries: This patent is for a refastenable disposable diaper that has an adhesive tab fastener fixed to the backsheet of the diaper and a second refastenable tab that also fastens to the backsheet.

Corrugated Disposable Diaper (4,886,511), Personal Products: A corrugated disposable diaper has been patented. The diaper has an initially molten liquid impermeable film and an elastic corrugating means with multiple strands of stretched elastic. The absorbent is adjacent to and smaller than one surface of the film and allows marginal regions of the film around the absorbent. A liquid permeable facing is secured to the film so the absorbent core is secured between the two. The elastic is then secured to the film in the central portion of the diaper.

Absorbent Napkin, Particularly For Infant Diaper Pads (4,883,479), Colgate-Palmolive: This patent is for an absorbent article made of a base sheet of fluid impervious material, a topsheet of a fluid pervious nonwoven and an absorbent pad between. The sheets are connected around the edges and the absorbent pad's side panels are folded under the topsheet and over its central panel. A binder on the central panel penetrates the pad's wadding sheet and secures the side panels to the central panel.

Disposable Diaper With Integral Disposal Envelope (4,923,455), Personal Hygiene Research Associates: This is a disposable diaper with a disposable envelope attached to it. The front and back portions of the diaper have inner liners with terminal edges. The disposal envelope has inner and outer panels with a space in between for the disposable diaper. The inner panel of the envelope is next to the outer liner of the diaper.

Disposable Diaper (4,892,528), Uni-Charm: A disposable diaper with a thick absorbent core has been patented. A water permeable topsheet extends over the top of the absorbent core, while a water impermeable backsheet covers most of the bottom surface. Two sheets resistant to water are adjacent and extend partially outward from the sides of the core and the outer portion of the sheets are joined to the backsheet at the sides to form side flaps. The inner portion of the sheets have two ends like a "U" facing the backsheet and parallel to a portion of the topsheet that extends along the sides of the core.

Disposable Diaper Pantie (4,917,696), Peaudouce: This disposable diaper has an absorbent between an impervious backing sheet and a permeable inner liner. A group of longitudinal coatings of adhesives are distributed over side marginal portions of the inside face of the backsheet and over its entire length. The absorbent pad is smaller in width than the backsheet and liner, at least in the crotch zone, so the side marginal portions extend outwardly beyond the side edges of the pad.

Compact Disposable Diaper (4,917,693), Barbara Terry, Red Oak, GA: A compact disposable diaper has been patented. The diaper has a front, seat and rear portion, with a pair of open-ended compartments in the opposed edges of the rear and adjacent to the top corners. A baby maintenance item is disposed within each of the compartments. Closure means are on the edges of the side walls at the top of the rear portion. There is also a fastening means on the opposed side walls of the front portion for attaching it to the rear portion so that part of the front overlies the compartments and retains the diaper assembly in place.

In this past year, with the introduction by Kimberly-Clark of Huggies Pull-Ups training pants, older children's needs also became the focus of additional products. Two patents were also issued for training pants or combination diapers and pants. These were:

Combination Diaper And Training Pants (4,906,243), Mary Dravland, Hamilton, OH: This garment includes a combination of a diaper and training pants. The article has a rectangular back and front section and an hourglass shaped section in the middle. The middle section covers the seat and crotch areas of the wearer and forms a pocket for collecting waste. The outer layer is water impervious, the inner liner is a thin absorbent and the core, sandwiched between the outer layer and inner liner, is of the water absorbent material.

Disposable Underpants (4,880,423), Lyel Green, Roy, UT: These are disposable underpants made up of a sheet of composite materials that include a waterproof layer and at least one absorbent layer cut to an hourglass shape. There are strips of elastic sewn to the sheet along the front and back edges and along the leg openings. Strips of hooked materials are sewn to the ends of the elastic strips adjacent the leg openings in the front and overlying ends of the elastic at the front edge of the absorbent face of the sheet.

Adult Incontinence And

Sanitary Protection Patents

The fields of adult incontinence and sanitary protection or feminine hygiene were also represented in patent literature in the past year, with feminine hygiene patents comprising 10% of the total patents survey. Adult incontinence was a little less visible, with 5% of patents. A few of the patents in these areas included:

Sanitary Napkins Having Flaps And Stress Relief Means (4,917,697), Procter & Gamble: This patent is for a sanitary napkin with a flap along a line of the juncture of the absorbent extending laterally outward to a distal edge. A stress relief means made up of a slit or a notch is located along the line of the juncture.

Sanitary Napkin (4,900,319), Mark Richmond, Lincoln, NE: Patented is an elongated sanitary napkin formed of a single, uniform-thickness layer of soft, absorbent material throughout. The napkin's front and back portions are rectangular, non-tapering and equal in width. The forward portion extends over the vaginal area and the rearward portion extends over the lower buttock area of the user. The middle portion is wider and has a means for removably mounting the napkin to an undergarment.

Incontinent Garment With Elasticized Pouch (4,886,512), Kimberly-Clark: This patent is for a disposable absorbent pouched pad with a rectangular shape. Elastic portions are centered around the long edges of the liner and back sheet and the pad width is between 20-25% of the pad length. The length of the elasticized area when extended is from 25-60% of the total length and the shortening of the total pad length when the elastic relaxes is between 15-27% of the extended length.

Attachment Means And Incontinent Garment Incorporating Same (4,911,702), Weyerhaeuser: This is an attachment for an incontinent garment that has an elongated anchor strip adjacent and parallel to the longitudinal margins of one waist-encircling portion and permanently attached to the body of the garment. One attached end is located adjacent to the transverse margin of the waist encircling portion and the other is located adjacent to the leg encircling portion of the longitudinal edge. The anchor strip simultaneously places tension around the waist area and leg areas with single attachment tape.

From Blood To Grease....

Absorbents can also be used, as many nonwovens companies are discovering, for applications far beyond baby and adult diapers. Patents in the medical and food packaging and transport areas are just a few of the different types of end uses being targeted by absorbent nonwovens. These patents included:

Absorbent Insert For Food Packaging (4,935,282), James River: This patent is for an absorbent insert in a package used to display and cook the food product inside. The insert is made of a paperboard resistant to staining from food contact. The board has an apertured central panel with lateral panels along each of the two opposite edges. There is a fold line impressed along the edges of the central panel. An absorbent layer is attached by adhesive to the board and spaced inwardly from the edges. The two lateral panels are folded inward over the absorbent layer and are fastened by an adhesive.

Article For Absorbing Cooking Grease (4,923,725), DuPont: This is a cooking-grease trapping and immobilizing article made of a bed of absorbent material in a container. The absorbent consists of particles and polyolefin microfibers. The container has an inlet through which the grease enters and comes into contact with the first layer of the absorbent.

Absorbent Pad For Ostomy Appliance (4,865,594), Thomas Medical: This absorbent pad, combined with an ostomy appliance that collects body fluid secreted from the stoma, is made of a fluid-impermeable means of adhering the pad to the stoma. The absorbent has an inner circumference from six-90 cm in length and an outer circumference from 10-13 cm.

Patient Underpad (4,943,286), Kenneth Armstead, Lebanon, TN: This patent is for an improved reusable patient underpad made of four layers. The top absorbent layer is made of a heat-treated polyester rayon needled nonwoven fabric, while the second layer is a nonwoven polyester. The third layer is a water impervious synthetic material bonded to the second layer and the fourth layer, of synthetic fleece warpknit fabric, is bonded to the third layer.

Absorbent Blood Wipe Pad And Method (4,925,453), Sealed Air: Patented is a medical sponge that has the ability to absorb body fluids while protecting the person using the sponge from contact with the fluids. The sponge has an absorbent pad for absorbing the fluids with a fluid permeable cover sheet on one side and a fluid impervious cover sheet of flexible plastic film covering the other. The cover sheets are secured together to enclose the pad and a handle is attached to the fluid impervious cover sheet--opposite the absorbent pad--to protect the person.
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Title Annotation:includes list of absorbent patents; absorbent products in nonwoven fabrics industry
Author:Noonan, Ellen
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:Directory
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:2438
Previous Article:Powder bonding technology: nonwoven structures and laminates.
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