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Absorbent ideas soak up the patents.

for the first time, foreign companies dominate this year's absorbent product patents; in the product area, baby diaper patents are still number one

Absorbent patents have traditionally been a hotbed of activity, whether it has been through the attempts of major consumer products companies rushing to get specific innovations patented or the litigation that almost invariably follows when one company's product is just a little too similar to another's offering.

By examining recent absorbent patent activity, it is possible to get a good feel for the status of the absorbent products industry (which includes baby diapers, adult incontinence products and sanitary protection products as well as other related areas) and the future directions of the industry.

In the nine months since our last absorbent patent survey, 57 patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office were reviewed by NONWOVENS INDUSTRY. These patents cover a wide range of materials, products and features and illustrate some interesting new trends.

For the first time, a greater percentage of patents were awarded to companies or individuals outside the U.S. At the same time, baby diaper patents remained the most numerous specific end use category, but the number of patents that Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, and Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX, received dropped significantly.

Companies, Countries And Citizens

In looking at the list of patents, Procter & Gamble still remains the top company in number of patents awarded. However, P&G had only 11% of the patents, a dramatic drop from its 21% share last year. Kimberly-Clark, the other U.S. diaper giant, also experienced a drop in its percentage of patents awarded, falling from 13% last year to only 4% this year.

The decrease in the number of patents for these two companies may be signalling a slow down in the development of "new bells and whistles" for diapers while the companies work on refining current techniques and products. It may also reflect an increased concentration on protecting existing patents, guarding against others' "copycat" products.

Johnson & Johnson's Personal Products Company, New Brunswick, NJ, had the second highest percentage of patents, at 9%, as did Uni-Charm, Ehime, Japan, and 3M, St. Paul, MN. All three moved up in percentages from last year's survey, where they had 3%, 1% and 6% respectively. 3M's position is indicative of the increased number of diaper tapes and adhesive patents found in this year's survey.

One area of greatest change was the number of patents issued to companies and individuals not based in the U.S. Fully 32% of the patents issued were awarded to foreign nationals or companies, with their patents covering the entire range of products and product improvements.

As mentioned above, Uni-Charm was tied for the second highest percentage of patents and, with Kao Corporation, Tokyo, Japan, and its 5% of the patents, the two signalled a large increase for Japanese manufacturers. The Japanese share in general increased from only 4% last year to 14% this year.

In this year's survey, 28% of the patents included were awarded to individuals who had ideas for better products or features. This is up only slightly from last year's figure of 25% but is a clear indication that there are always people out in the world with new ideas for soaking up the world's problems.

Patents were also analyzed according to end product categories. Of the 57 patents surveyed, 51% described specific absorbent end uses such as baby diaper, adult incontinence or feminine hygiene products. Approximately 21% of the remaining patents detailed general absorbent articles, while 18% described tapes or adhesives, 9% detailed disposable garments and 1% was other.

The percentage of general patents - those that cover absorbent articles, mixtures or structures while not specifically describing a baby diaper, feminine hygiene material or adult incontinence product - decreased from 44% last year to only 30% this year. Among specific end uses (Figure 1), baby diapers were still number one, with 30% of all the patents surveyed detailing some new feature or design on an infant care product. This percentage is up slightly from last year, when 28% of the patents described baby diapers.

Sanitary protection patents nearly doubled, going from 8% last year to 14% this year. The emphasis on the type of feminine hygiene products also changed, with nearly two-thirds of this year's patents detailing new tampon designs and only one-third describing sanitary napkins. This marks almost a complete reversal from last year's survey.

Adult incontinence was another area of increased activity. Of the patents surveyed, 11% were specifically concerned with adult incontinence products, an increase from the 3% reported last year. In another area, it is interesting to note that there were no medical or surgical patents in this year's survey, as compared to 4% last year.

As far as the total number of patents is concerned, this year's figure is roughly level with last year's figures. If the 57 patent total for the nine month period is extrapolated over 12 months, the total number of patents issued would only be four or five less than last year. All figures presented for comparison in this survey are based on the percentages of the total.

Absorbent Patents Portfolio

The following is a complete list, in no particular order, of all patents included in this survey.

Baby's Diaper Of Adjustable Size (5,100,399); Sue Janson, Dana Pendlebury, Victoria, Australia. Filed 5/15/1990.

Adjustable Diaper (5,112,326); Giuseppe Quadrini, Quebec, Canada. Filed 6/14/91.

Disposable Diapers, Absorbent Articles and Thermoplastic Sheet Material Having Improving Tape Adhesion (5,084,039); Leopoldo Cancio, Thomas Ryle, Robert Tomany and Pai-Chuan Wu, assignors to Clopay, Cincinnati, OH. Filed 6/7/89.

Diaper Construction (5,078,708); Muhammad Haque, Forest Hills, NY. Filed 12/8/89.

Disposable Diapers (5,062,840); John Holt, Debra Holt, Ralston, OK. Filed 5/22/89.

Nondisposable Diaper (5,061,260); Joanne Callahan, Christine Houle, Scanda, MN. Filed 7/26/90.

Packaging Pocket For Disposable Diaper (5,074,414); Donald Elliot, Denver, CO. Filed 11/27/89.

Reusable Diaper (5,069,672); Heather Wippler, Leopole Nolet, Concord, Ontario, Canada. Filed 9/21/90.

Low Bulk Disposable Diaper (5,098,423); Heinz Pieniak, Gloria Huffman, assignors to McNeil-PPC, Milltown, NJ,

Disposable Diaper (5,061,261); Migaku Suzuki, Satoshi Nozaki, Takeshi Kudo and Kazuaki Ohnishi, assignors to Uni-Charm, Ehime, Japan. Filed 5/25/90.

Disposable Diaper (5,114,420); Takamitsu Igaue, Hideaki Kitaoka and Hirojuki Tanji, assignors to Uni-Charm, Ehime, Japan. Filed 2/20/90.

Disposable Diapers (5,069,678); Masamitsu Yamamoto, Noriyuki Kimura, Yoshihisa Fujioka Hiroki Yamamoto and Makoto Suekane, assignors to Uni-Charm, Ehime, Japan. Filed 9/27/90.

Highly Absorbent, Leak-Proof and Breathable Diaper (5,114,418); Harry Lezy, Hollis Hills, NY, Filed 12/10/90.

Washable Diaper With A Fixed Water Proof Cover (5,106,382); Donna Henry, New, Berlin, WI. Filed 1/24/91.

Diaper With Disposable Insert and Reusable Cover (5,108,385); William Snyder, North Miami, FL. Filed 7/19/90.

Sanitary Napkin (5,092,860); Raymond Pigneul, assignor to Kaysersberg SA, Kaysersberg, France. Filed 12/7/90.

Sanitary Napkin With Individual Self Wrapping Means (5,088,993); Umesh Gaur, assignor to McNeil-PPC, Milltown, NJ. Filed 12/21/90.

Sanitary Napkin With Bendable Means To Shape and Retain The Sanitary Napkin (5,098,422); Martha Davis, Daniel Formosa, Jeannie Gerth, Patricia Moore, Stephen Russak, Tamara Thomsen, Tucker Viemeister, assignors to McNeil-PPC, Milltown, NJ. Filed 7/6/90.

Tampon Construction (5,047,024); Jacob Glassman, Miami Beach, FL.

Tampon Applicator (5,087,239); Alan Beastall, Malcom Guest, assignors to Tampax Ltd., U.K. Filed 12/21/90.

Tampon And A Method For Its Manufacture (5,019,061); Ebbe Hoden, Maja Mokvist, assignors to AB Bergassa Industrier, Mariefred, Sweden, Filed 1/30/90.

Apparatus And A Method For Forming Tampons And The Tampon Itself (5,084,038); Donald Sheldon, Paut Franke, Raymond Brown, assignors to Kimberly-Clark, Neenah, WI. Filed 9/12/89.

Tampon (5,080,659); Takashi Nakanishi, assignor to KAO Corporation, Tokyo, Japan. Filed 8/31/90.

Undergarments To Be Worn By Incontinent Persons (5,098,419); David Gold, assignor to Nantucket Industries, New York, NY Filed 7/19/90.

Durable and Reusable Incontinent Underpads (5,085,653); Harry Levy, Hollis Hills, NY. Filed 12/10/90.

Male Incontinent Diaper (5,074,853); Tracy Bryant, Tucson, AZ. Filed 6/4/90.

Urinary Incontinence Pad (5,074,855); Robert Rosenbluth, Jay Lenker, George Greene, assignors to Advanced Surgical Intervention, San Clemente, CA. Filed 1/10/91.

Absorbent Products Having Integral Transverse Retaining Tab And Pocket (5,087,254); Martha Davis, Daniel Formosa, Jeannie Gerth, Patricia Moore, Stephen Russak, Tamara Thomsen, Tucker Viemeister, assignors to McNeil-PPC, Milltown, NJ. Filed 7/6/90,

Absorbent Mixture (5,100,397); John Poccia, Kevin Ovans, Heinz Pieniak, assignors to McNeil-PPC, New Brunswick, NJ. Filed 6/14/89.

Three-Dimensional Shaped Absorbent Article With A Bicomponent Baffle (5,074,856); Louise Coe, Anne Fahrenkrug, Julie Brocker, James Milner, assignors to Kimberly-Clark, Neenah, WI. Filed 1/29/90.

Absorbent Article (5,069,677); Akira Sakurai, Yasuhiro Torimae, assignors to Kao Corporation, Tokyo, Japan. Filed 3/12/90.

Surface Material For Sanitary Articles (5,078,710); Yasunori Suda, Takatoshi Kobayashi, Akira Yamanoi, Tamio Yasuno, Daisuke Shiba, assignors to KAO Corporation, Tokyo, Japan. Filed 3/16/90.

Absorbent Members Having Low Density Basis Weight Acquisition Zones (5,047,023); Charles Berg, assignor to Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH,

Absorbent Structures With Gelling Agent And Absorbent Articles Containing Such Structures (5,061,259); Stephen Goldman, James Horney, Herbert Retzch, assignors to Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH. Filed 11/20/90.

Absorbent Pad With Helical Wicking (5,104,396); John Oatley, David Levy, both of South Africa. Filed 1/25/89.

Absorbent Element And An Absorbent Article Including The Element (5,087,506); Gianfranco Palumbo, assignor to Faricerca SpA, Pescara, Italy, Filed 3/16/90.

Absorbent Peat Moss Product (5,053,029); Ching-Yun Yang, assignor to Chicopee, New Brunswick, NJ. Filed 1/12/90.

Disposable Absorbent Article With Combination Mechanical And Adhesive Tape Fastener System And Having Reserve Adhesive Tape For Improved Disposability (5,108,384); David Goulait, assignor to Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH. Filed 9/11/90,

Absorbent Article Having Inflected Barrier Cuffs (5,087,255); Bret Sims, assignor to Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, Filed 8/1/90,

Disposable Garments (5,055,103); Hironori Nomura, Hirofumi Ohnishi, Yoshinor Matsura, Tohru Sasaki, assignors to Uni-Charm, Ehime, Japan. Filed 12/13/90.

Disposable Garments (5,092,861); Hironori Nomura, Takamitsu Igaue, Hiroki Yamamoto, Hiroyuki Tanji, assignors to Uni-Charm, Ehime, Japan. Filed 12/24/90,

Method For Producing Disposable Garments (5,064,492); Andrew Friesch, Cedarburg, WI. Filed 10/3/89.

Disposable Garments With Breathable Leg Cuffs (5,085,654); Kenneth Buell, assignor to Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH. Filed 4/22/91.

Disposable Undergarment Having A Break-Away Panel (5,074,854); Karen Davis, assignor Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH. Filed 8/24/90.

Combination Diaper Training Pant For Adults And Children (5,087,253); Rosanna Cooper, Aurora, CO. Filed 6/20/86.

Disposable Diaper With Crotch Elastics And Lateral Sealing Coating (5,100,398); Andre Leroy, Yves Villez, assignors to Peaudouce, Linselles, France. Filed 7/27/88.

Absorbent Pad And Method For Constructing Same (5,055,332); John Rhodes, Ronald Aljoe, Berne Ellers, assignors to Clean-Pak, St, Louis, MO, and Dry Forming Processes AB, Orkelljunga, Switzerland. Filed 9/18/89.

Disposable Diaper With Thermoplastic Material Anchored Hook Fastener Portion (5,100,400); Kirit Mody, Bernard Campbell, assignors to 3M, St. Paul, MN. Filed 11/17/89.

Disposable Diaper With Improved Hook And Loop Fastener System (5,053,028); Anthony Zoia, Roland Midgley, Donald Plaschko, William Melbye, Leigh Wood, Susan Nestegard, John Miller, assignors to 3M, St. Paul, MN. Filed 10/10/89.

Adhesive Fastening Tab (5,019,071); Stephen Bany, John Miller, Brad Eaton, assignors to 3M, St. Paul, MN. Filed 12/12/89,

Closure Systems For Diapers And Method Of Preparation (5,106,383); Robert Mulder, Douglas Swenson, assignors to 3M, St. Paul, MN. Filed 7/28/89.

Release Treated Nonwoven Fastening Tape Protector (5,066,289); Stephen Polski, assignor to 3M, St. Paul, MN. Filed 4/9/90.

Low Friction High Release Coatings For Release Tapes (5,080,973); Thanh Nguyen, assignor to Avery Dennison Corporation, Pasadena, CA. Filed 5/22/90.

Cohesive Tape System (5,085,655); Roger Mann, Karl Joseph, Gary Avalon, assignors to Avery Dennison Corporation, Pasadena, CA. Filed 7/19/90.

Novel Adhesive Means For Releasably Fastening Disposable Diapers Or Other Articles Of Apparel (5,071,415); Shiro Takemoto, assignor to Kendall, Lexington, MA. Filed 10/30/87.

Diaper Cover And Diaper With Self Closure Hook And Loop Fasteners (5,049,145); Rachael Flug, assignor to Diaperaps Ltd., Northridge, CA, Filed 1/24/91,

Adjustable Diaper And Method Of Folding Same (5,106,385); Linda Allen, Wendy Harrison, assignors to Aware Diaper, Greeley, CO. Filed 8/23/90.
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Title Annotation:includes list of companies with absorbent patents; foreign companies have high numbers of absorbent product patents
Author:Sullivan, Scott D.
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Previous Article:The market for nonwoven medical dressings, sponges and bandages.
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