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Gore-Tex - Invented by Wilbert L. Gore

Wilbert L. Gore-Gore-Tex
: 1976
: United States
: Everyday Life

About Invention

Gore-Tex is a waterproof, breathable fabric membrane and registered trademark of W. L. Gore and Associates. Invented in 1969, Gore-Tex is able to repel liquid water while allowing water vapor to pass through, and is designed to be a lightweight, waterproof fabric for all-weather use.

In 1966, John W. Cropper of New Zealand developed and constructed a machine for producing stretched polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) tape. Rather than file for a patent, however, Cropper chose to keep the process of creating expanded PTFE as a closely held trade secret and required his producer and its employees to sign confidentiality agreements.

Gore-Tex was co-invented by Wilbert L. Gore and Gore's son, Robert W. Gore.In 1969, Bob Gore stretched heated rods of PTFE and created expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE). His discovery of the right conditions for stretching PTFE was a happy accident, born partly of frustration. Instead of slowly stretching the heated material, he applied a sudden, accelerating yank. The solid PTFE unexpectedly stretched about 800%, forming a microporous structure that was about 70% air.It was introduced to the public under the trademark Gore-Tex.Bob Gore promptly applied for and obtained the following patents:

In the 1970s Garlock, Inc. allegedly infringed Gore's patents and was sued by Gore in the Federal District Court of Ohio. The District Court held Gore's patents to be invalid after a "bitterly contested case" that "involved over two years of discovery, five weeks of trial, the testimony of 35 witnesses (19 live, 16 by deposition), and over 300 exhibits" (quoting the Federal Circuit). On appeal, however, the Federal Circuit disagreed in the famous case of Gore v. Garlock, reversing the lower court's decision on the ground, as well as others, that Cropper forfeited any superior claim to the invention by virtue of having concealed the process for making ePTFE from the public, thereby establishing Gore as the legal inventor.

Gore-Tex is used in products manufactured by Patagonia, L.L. Bean, Oakley, Inc., Galvin Green, Marmot, Vasque, Arc'teryx and The North Face.

Since the expiration of the main Gore-Tex patent, several other products have come to market with similar characteristics that use similar technology.As a cheaper alternative to the more expensive membranes, there are also waterproof/breathable coatings which are less durable.

For his invention, Robert W. Gore was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.


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