HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) – A jury should decide whether diapers sold by retailers like Rite-Aid and Walgreens infringe patents held by Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, the company that makes Huggies, a federal judge ruled.
After analyzing the anatomical features of the accused diapers with painstaking detail, U.S. District Judge William Caldwell said there remains a factual dispute about whether diapers manufactured by First Quality, including Cuties-brand diapers, have elastic “across the crotch,” a key element of diaper patents held by Kimberly-Clark.
Defining patent terms during the claim construction phase of the case, the court found that elastic could be considered as being placed “across the crotch” of a garment even if the elastic was “cut or severed”.
Relying on that definition Tuesday, Caldwell said the elastic on First Quality’s diapers “is not only cut, but significantly, it is cut with an appreciable gap in the area of the product covering the crotch.”
“A reasonable fact-finder might therefore conclude that the elastic does not extend ‘across the crotch,'” the 11-page opinion states.
Kimberly Clark sued First Quality in March 2009, claiming First Quality’s diapers infringed Kimberly-Clark’s patents.
First Quality fired back with counterclaims around April 2009, accusing Kimberly-Clark of trying to monopolize the market on disposable baby diapers and training pants by trying to enforce invalid patents through sham litigation aimed at draining the resources of competitors.
In May, Caldwell ruled that First Quality had alleged a plausible monopoly claim against Kimberly Clark.