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Kleenex art that ended in tears

Friday 11 April 1997 23:02 BST

An Oxford professor, Sir Roger Penrose, who claims the makers of Kleenex quilted toilet paper used his designs, is seeking destruction of all stocks of the paper. He designed a special pattern for tiles in 1974 which gives a series of distinctive star shapes and owns the copyright for the pattern, according to a High Court writ.

Makers of Kleenex quilted toilet paper, Kimberly Clark Ltd, have made and sold the paper, which uses his pattern the writ says.

Sir Roger, Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, is demanding the makers hand over all copies of his copyright pattern and an order for all articles or documents to be forfeited to him and his company, Pentaplex Ltd, or to be destroyed.

Pentaplex's director, David Bradley, said: "When it comes to the population of Great Britain being invited by a multinational to wipe their bottoms on what appears to be a work of a knight of the realm without his permission, then a last stand must be made."

Sir Roger is also seeking an injunction to stop the makers infringing his copyright, an inquiry into damages for infringement of copyright, or an account of profits, and an order for payment of all sums found due, with interest, and costs. Kimberly Clark's associate company, Kimberly- Clark Corporation, took out two patents for toilet paper, which acknowledge that the overall appearance of two diagrams is the same as the Penrose pattern, the writ claims. The pattern on the toilet tissue and on the packaging are reproductions of his copyright works, and Kimberly Clark knew the pattern was an infringing copy of his copyright works, the writ alleges.

Sir Roger and Pentaplex say they are not aware of all acts of infringement committed by Kimberly Clark, but will seek to recover for all acts. Unless Kimberly Clark is restrained by the High Court, it threatens and intends to continue infringing the copyrights, and Sir Roger and his company will suffer more loss and damage, the writ says.

The writ says that there is a particular demand for quilted toilet tissue, which involves bulking up the paper to give an impression and feel of greater softness and bulk.

Periodic patterns used for embossing suffer from the disadvantage that the toilet tissue "nests" on the roll, creating an unattractive appearance, and an aperiodic pattern, such as his, is particularly attractive, since nesting is avoided.

No date has been fixed for hearing the action. The professor, who was not available for comment, was said to have first noticed the rolls after buying toilet paper in a supermarket.

A spokeswoman for Kimberly Clark said it had been approached last year when initial discussions were held. Nothing more had been heard until the writ was issued.

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