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FTC issues temporary designation to new fiber; potential nonwovens applications to be determined.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a temporary designation to a new type of manufactured elastic fiber that has been developed in Japan. The manufacturer, Teijin Limited, wishes to market this fiber in the U.S.

Use of elastic fibers in nonwovens is a growing application. Elastics are already being used in such applications as diaper leg bands, wound treatments, clean room apparel and home furnishings (especially bedding). Applications for elastic nonwovens are also being found in traditional durable soft good markets such as fitted sheets. For these reasons alone, the nonwovens industry should be aware of potential new fibers.

In fact, several INDA members who manufacture fiber and others who use elastic fibers in finished goods have expressed an interest in the FTC action and are awaiting further action. INDA is working with these members and with representatives of the American Fiber Manufacturers Association to ensure that the interests of the nonwovens industry are represented as this matter unfolds.

The Potential Fiber And The FTC Response

Teijin Limited of Osaka, Japan, filed application with the FTC last November requesting that a generic name and definition be applied to this new fiber. Teijin asserted that the fiber is chemically similar to polyester and has elastic recovery characteristics comparable to spandex, but is different enough that it would cause "consumer confusion" if labeled either polyester or spandex.

The application is based on the Federal Textile Fiber Products Identification Act, which requires that the FTC approve any new manufactured fiber before it can be marketed in the U.S. Based on this act, numerous manufactured fibers (such as nylon, acetate and rayon) have been identified and listed in the Code of Federal Regulations.

When a fiber is created that is significantly different from those that have already been listed, the FTC must either provide a new generic name and definition for the fiber or expand one of the current definitions to include the new fiber.

In its applications to the FTC, Teijin asked that the new fiber be given one of three generic names: "polyetherester," "elastoester" or "estelast." Each of these would indicate the fiber's elastic properties and its similarity to polyester.

In addition, Teijin has proposed that the following definition be applied: "a manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is a long-chain synthetic polymer in which at least 50% of the polymer is composed of aliphatic polyether and at least 35% of the polymer is composed of polyester."

In previous cases where applications have been submitted to the FTC under the Textile Fiber Products identification Act, the Commission has followed three criteria for establishing a new generic manufactured fiber: 1) the fiber must have a chemical composition that is "radically different" from other fibers and this composition must result in distinctive physical properties of significance to the general public; 2) the fiber must be in active commercial use or use must be immediately foreseen; and 3) granting of a generic name must be of importance to the public at large, rather than to a small group of knowledgeable professionals.

The law also requires that the FTC act on application within 60 days of receipt. With the Teijin application, according to FTC officials, there was enough information for the Commission to conclude that the fiber deserved consideration, but far more data will be necessary to make a final determination as to whether the fiber meets the three criteria.

For this reason, the FTC issued temporary designation TL 0001 to the Teijin fiber until it can make a final determination as to whether, in fact, a new generic name and definition are necessary.

A final determination will be based on research and review to be conducted by FTC technical staff in the months ahead.

Should the FTC determine that the application has merit and that the fiber does not "fit" into any of the currently-existing categories listed in the Code of Federal Regulations, the commission will issue a proposed rule to expand the list and solicit public comment. INDA would poll its membership at that point to determine whether the nonwovens industry should file comment on the issue.

The FTC staff has noted that it is fairly unusual for a new fiber to be identified. During the past 20 years, in fact, only about three or four fibers have been added to the list.

According to the FTC, this is a "front burner" issue that the Commission would like to resolve as soon as possible. FTC technical staff members are currently developing a list of questions and test data needed from Teijin before a final determination can be made.

While credibility has been lent to the application by the fact that Teijin is such a large company and the fiber appears to be somewhat different from those currently listed, the FTC has stressed that the assignment of a temporary designation should not imply that the Commission will ultimately grant or deny the application.
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Title Annotation:Federal Trade Commission, Teijin Ltd.'s TL 0001 elastic fibers
Author:Mayberry, Peter
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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