Cloth Diaper Makers and Patent Protection

It’s been all over the cloth diaper world: Jenn Labit of Cotton Babies (maker of BumGenius, Flip, and Econobum) is determined to protect her company’s patents.  Some cloth diaper makers have decided that they will not sit back and allow their designs to be stolen while other companies take in the profit.  Tereson Dupuy of FuzziBunz has been fighting this battle for years.

Cloth Diaper Makers and Patent Protection (Cloth Diaper Addicts)

Take a look at these two diapers and tell me that the print is not a knockoff. And that’s only the beginning.

I’ve seen some comments floating around due to these cloth diaper makers’ refusal to have others take credit for their work.

“She’s not making anyone want to go out and buy her diapers!” 

“This is just big business being greedy.”

“Jenn is going to sue everyone!”

“I don’t see what the big deal is…”

“Tereson needs to just get over herself.”

Anyone who has made these kinds of comments has clearly never had their work stolen.  You know what?  I have.  I’ve had my writings reposted elsewhere and had to fight to get them removed.  I actually ended up having to get someone else’s website pulled because she refused to take down my work.  (This was long before DMCA.  I’ve had to have my work removed from other places since then, but without the battle.  Once I used the letters DMCA, it was done.)  I’ve had a former employer take credit for my work with his bosses… right in front of me on a conference call.

It sucks.  It’s a wonderful way of making a person who does the work of creating something feel like what she’s done is unimportant.  People who lump this in with “imitation is the highest form of flattery” has clearly never had it impact their paychecks.

I’m not going to speak to the quality of China Cheapies (which are the biggest offenders of lifting patented designs and copyrighted prints) or the ridiculous markups that those businesses who rebrand an AlvaBaby diaper.  That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.  What it comes down to is this: people design things and work hard.  They test them, they modify them, and they do their best to make them perfect before releasing to the general market.  This doesn’t just apply to cloth diaper makers.  This applies to anyone who has ever made a product.

As for some of the comments that are floating around out there: I suspect if you are saying that you won’t buy diapers from Cotton Babies or FuzziBunz over their intellectual property disputes, you had probably already decided that you weren’t buying their diapers for some other reason.  It’s hardly greedy to want payment for your work instead of seeing other companies profit from your labors.  Jenn hasn’t sued anyone at the time of this publication.  Tereson doesn’t need to get over herself.

Are there aspects that I don’t agree with from the cloth diaper makers who are protecting their patents?  Of course.  But I disagree with the intellectual dishonesty of lifting someone else’s work even more.

Have you ever had to protect your work from theft?  How did it turn out?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.

Comments

  1. I cannot believe the backlash Jennifer and Tereson are receiving over this. They are not claiming to be the founders of modern diapers in anyway…they just want to protect their own modifications and unique designs, and they have every right to!

    Using these ladie’s prints and styles and taking them to make your “own” creation is no different than using another’s artwork or literary work and claiming that it is your own.

  2. People seem to forget that Jenn and Tereson were WAHMs long before they were bug names in the cloth diaper industry. They’ve done well for themselves and broke into the market. They have every right to defend their products.

  3. How would these people like to have their work stolen? I bet they would be singing a different tune.
    Heather Johnson recently posted…Prenatal Diet: My Healthy Eating Plan Before ConceptionMy Profile

  4. LOVE IT!

  5. I think a lot of this stems from Tereson’s appearance on Shark Tank. The way it was edited she sounded ridiculous, rude, and full of herself. That may or may not be true but that is how it came off. I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting your patents protected. It doesn’t necessarily mean that nobody else can use the design, just that they have to pay a fee to you. I think they will be fighting a losing battle with those crazy China diapers but that’s up to them.

    • Someone Edited me on the discussion yesterday and said I was ignorant and inflammatory for simply stating we were only here to talk about the current company’s designs and we could not speak for anyone else’s “Claim to fame”. It’s too easy to pick at straws and point fingers, and much harder to be a team player. As an update, this broke on Saturday morning and as of today, Wednesday, Cotton Babies and their legal team already have part of an idea for contracting out certain parts of their patents to U.S. wahms because of the impact that she felt. That means it took her legal team only 2 days to decide and work on this. That’s not being a pain, that’s a team player! THIS is what we pay for!

      • Seriously. If she was out to smack down “the little guy” then the tantrums that people are throwing would be justifiable. But she’s not, and she’s being pretty cool about the legit WAHMs. I sure wouldn’t have a problem with buying from someone like that!

  6. Great post. I’ve never understood the backlash against against Tereson either, but I agree that it probably stemmed from the Shark Tank appearance. Whatever the reason, business have the right to protect their intellectual property, and I will gladly pay for their quality work. Luckily I’ve never had to deal with someone stealing my work though.

    • Sadly there was some of this going on for quite a while. For a couple of years, I think. Shark Tank just brought it all back up.

  7. I remember similar things happening 4 years ago surrounding gussets. I don’t think that it will ever end. I just wish there could be more friendly communication surrounding the issues. But I also agree with you, its not fun to have your hard work stolen.
    Melanie recently posted…Imperfectly Perfect {Part 1}My Profile

  8. II read a little to find out what was going on, but I don’t really feel the need to get into this. It’s not going to affect who’s diapers I do or do not buy, because I don’t know enough about the law to know if someone is completely in the wrong. I’ll let any lawsuits work themselves out and then reconsider. Maybe I’m naive, but there are worse things to be I suppose…

  9. Amen! Great points; thank you for publishing this!

  10. I’m pretty much a newbie to the cloth diapering world, as we are building our stash for our first baby due in December. This gives me the impression that cloth diapering is like anything else and there will always be a knockoff brand. In most cases they are subpar but people feel that if they “look like” the real thing then its essentially the same. I adore the Lovelace print from BumGenius but would never buy a diaper that was made to look like it but is an impostor. I never did it with purses or shoes and I surely won’t do it with diapers. Someone worked hard to create a product they believe in and I don’t blame them for trying to protect their own investment! If it means I pay $10 more for a BumGenius that I know will work, last a long time and have a company stand behind it then I will surely do that than to receive a poor quality product that might look pretty but doesn’t really function.
    mama pure recently posted…Welcome to mama pure!My Profile

  11. I think it sad that people are upset about this. Its no different than stealing written work or other ideas. Designing your own diapers is one thing, suggesting they are something else is another,
    Ashleigh Swerdfeger recently posted…Unspoken Memories by Gabbie Duran; Cover RevealMy Profile

  12. I work closely with another cloth diaper company and I totally understand the need to protect your work!
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  13. It is not okay for ideas to be stolen and I don’t think there is anything wrong with fighting that. I have a few friends that have been part of the cloth diapering community for over 20 years and they told me that there is a lot of bad feelings directed towards Tereson because she patented work that wasn’t hers and then sued the people who actually created the ideas for using “her” patented idea. They said that most people thought it was ironic that Tereson then complained about her work being stolen when she did the exact same thing. I don’t know whether that is true or not but I think that might be the reason why there is so much negativity around her patent lawsuits

    • Hi There – Just want to chime in that I have never sued anyone. That is incorrect. I have not even as much as sent a cease and desist letter to anyone. I have been fighting for 10 years in the patent office to prove the validity of the patent and have won many arguments with them and they still can not find a reason to reject the patent. It is a shame that ever action in the patent office takes more than a year or two to get an answer due to budget cuts (should take no more than 6 months). This hurts small businesses and inventors every day. I just wanted to clear up that point. This was a very good blog post.

      • Hi Tereson, thank you so much for clearing that up! It’s an important distinction to make. Keep fighting the good fight and holding your head up high.

  14. I’m glad they are fighting for their work! It’s not okay to steal someone else’s work in any other arena. I’m sorry they are getting such backlash. I will continue to buy the BG’s because I love them. I own a lot of other diapers, but they are my favorites. There is a definite quality difference in the diapers and knockoffs – just look at the coloring in the first picture on this post!

  15. I totally don’t support the theft of intellectual property (which obviously includes patented schtuff). I am curious to see where this will lead, as there’s a lot of WAHMs who use innovations (from BG in particular) in their diapers, and as you’ve pointed out, the worst offenders are the China Cheapies – who can’t really be gone after.

  16. I am shocked that tereson dupuy’s patent is so all encompassing. I don’t think she invented the pocket diaper design as there is evidence that other Wahms/cos were making them prior to her patent. In any event, I think it’s unusual to patent a cloth diaper unless it’s a feature that is incredibly unusual and unique. It’s sort of like patenting the fleece jacket– which has not been done as far as I know. The only things I’ve seen in the cloth diaper world that are patent worthy are bumgenius’ stretchy tabs, rumparooz inner fleece gusset, baby kicks fleece “gusset”, fuzzibunz adjustable/replaceable elastic (if they were truly the first to use that design), thirsties “floating” aio soaker. I mean these seem unique enough to patent. Maybe the bumkins back air vent. I believe prints can be copyrighted too. Snap down aio? No. Adjustible aio elastic? No. Pocket? No. Side snap? No. Double gusset? No. Sewn in soaker (eg bG elemental)? No. there’s a point where you have to acknowledge that it’s some fabric shaped to fasten on a baby’s butt and hold waste, and that some elements of the design are universal, and widely used, and obvious to many who have sewn or designed diapers. How many moms sewed up different designs just to find out later that someone else did too. I sewed up a version of Adjustible/replaceable elastic in a one size snapless fitted in 2006 (made to be snappied) along with a stuff able doubler. Patent worthy? Well I dont have the money to buy a patent. And it was an idea that came frOm snappi baby’s snapless fitteds with my own modS to be used with a snappi. *sigh* :

  17. I wasn’t aware of Fuzzibunz patent on the pocket diaper (at least certain kinds). It has seemed like there has been a lot of cloth diaper drama recently but I guess that’s not new 😉

  18. saltierone says:

    Honestly the alva version is much cuter. The bum genius don’t have patterns that appeal to me the way other diaper companies do. I think although they are similar it’s not on infringement.

Trackbacks

  1. […] this month has been pretty rough on the cloth diaper community at large.  There’s been the Cotton Babies patent thing, which is showing some fairly unpleasant behavior on the part of some folks.  (No, I’m not […]

  2. […] You found a WAHM that you’re partial to.  Maybe she’s local, maybe you’ve heard good things, or maybe she’s just in your budget.  You want cloth trainers made… but she doesn’t make them.  You like these cheap trainers for how they fit your kid, but they’re ugly and cheap.  So can she just copy that design? […]

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