Friday, September 10, 2010

Martha Stewart "green" detergent strikes out

There's the brand name, and, then, there's the product.


• Martha's Stewart's new Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent (21 cents per load in conventional washers, 28 cents in high-efficiency machines) is among the detergents with greener claims in Consumer Reports' latest tests. But it cleaned about as well as plain water in conventional machines—and only slightly better in high-efficiency front-loaders.

If the product does not live up to the trademark reputation, bad things happen.

In other bad news for the Martha Stewart empire, there's a law suit for patent infringement. From Bloomberg, on 10 Sept. 2010:

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. was sued by an Illinois company that claims the maker of household goods is infringing a patent for “Protect-A-Bed” mattress covers designed to keep bedbugs from biting sleepers.

JAB Distributors LLC claims the Martha Stewart Collection Allergy Wise Mattress Protector is using its invention without permission. Closely held JAB is seeking a court order to prevent further use, plus unspecified cash compensation, according to the complaint filed yesterday [9 Sept 10] in federal court in Chicago [ND Ill].

The patent infringement case is JAB Distributors LLC v. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., 10cv5716, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago venue).

The patent in question is US 7,552,489, with first claim:

A bed bug protective encasement for a mattress, said mattress having six sides, said encasement comprising: i. a fabric cover of a size for surrounding the six sides of a mattress, said cover formed of a bed bug impervious fabric; ii. an opening formed in said cover and being of a size for receiving the mattress; iii. a slide fastening mechanism disposed in said opening and operable to close said opening after the mattress has been received, said mechanism comprising: (a) a zipper head; and (b) a pair of zipper tracks having a longitudinal axis and terminating at an end location; iv. a unitary and continuous barrier disposed at said end location and extending for a distance along said zipper tracks said barrier disposed beneath said zipper tracks; and v. stitching attaching said barrier to said fabric cover, said stitching running relative to each side of said longitudinal axis of said zipper tracks, said stitching being formed so as to prevent traversal by a bed bug across said stitching; and vi. a channel between said barrier and said fabric cover, said channel formed by said stitching, said barrier and said zipper tracks, said channel slidingly receiving a portion of said zipper head and said channel becoming an enclosed channel when said zipper head at said end location; wherein said channel has a confined space of a size to thwart bug movement the channel when said zipper head is at said end location.

One of the references cited is: Doggett et al., "Encasing Mattresses in Black Plastic Will Not Provide Thermal Control of Bed Bugs, Cimex spp. (Hemiptera: Cimicidae)". Journal of Economic Entomology, vol. 99, No. 6, Dec. 2006.

The background of invention notes:

Bed bugs, commonly known as cimex lectularis, are a type of insect that commonly hides within bed mattresses. Such bed bugs are found in homes, cruise ships, motels, hostels or boarding houses where itinerant travelers find overnight lodging. Bed bugs will feed off of the blood of humans sleeping on the mattresses that harbor these insects. Typically, a bed bug will crawl out of the mattress during the night, bite the sleeping victim, and then return to the safe confines of the mattress.

To prevent the escapement of bed bugs from the mattress, and thus contain and starve the bugs, a technique has been devised in which the mattress is surrounded with a fabric cover or encasement to seal the exit of the bugs. The encasement is slipped onto the mattress and closed via a slide fastening mechanism such as a zipper. Bugs escaping from the mattress will encounter the barrier of the fabric cover, and thus will be prevented from reaching a human sleeping on the mattress.

Problems exist, however, with the use of such protective mattress covers or encasements. For example, a user may fail to completely close the zipper on the encasement, or the zipper may become partially unzipped through movement or rustling of the mattress, as for example, when the bed is made and remade. This results in an opening at the zipper end through which bed bugs may escape. Indeed, even zippers that have been carefully and completely closed may still leave a narrow opening at the end of the zipper that is a large enough opening for a small bed bug to crawl through and escape.

[As a footnote, the author of the Bloomberg piece on Stewart is Susan Decker, who separately wrote the Kappos "on the hunt" article. Decker still has not responded to the email of Sept. 9 about the (questionable) accuracy of the "on the hunt" piece.]

Products that don't work well AND an accusation of copying. Things are not good for Stewart on September 10.


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