Toilet Paper Disputes: The Arguments go Beyond the Way of the Roll

Harness IP

[author: Sydney Schnur, Summer Associate]

To start, Patent No. 465,588 ends the argument of which way the toilet paper roll should be (pictured above). However, the toilet paper disputes are far from over. In fact, Westlaw has published eighty-two federal intellectual property cases discussing toilet paper from 1889 to date. Moreover, seventeen of these cases really were on a roll. Specifically, seventeen of these cases covered disputes over toilet paper.1-17 Ten of these cases made their way to the United States Court of Appeals, while one case rolled its way into the Supreme Court of the United States.

Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP v. Kimberly-Clark Corp (2011) is the most recently published intellectual property case on toilet paper.1 The Court makes many mentions that this case is, in fact, about toilet paper, making the case a humorous read.1 During the discovery period, around “675,000 pages of documents were produced.”18 A few associates might have needed some toilet paper after those documents were placed on their desk. However, at the end of the day, everyone rolled with it. In conclusion, the Court held that functionality cannot be trademarked and that the diamond design on toilet paper actually performs a function—something to consider the next time you run out.1


1Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., 647 F.3d 723 (7th Cir. 2011)

2Martin v. Crown Zellerbach Corp., 57 C.C.P.A. 968 (1970)

3Morgan Envelope Co. v. Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Co., 14 S. Ct. 627 (US 1894)

4U.S. v. Douglas Paper Co., 41 C.C.P.A. 247 (1953)

5Oakford Co. v. Kroger Co., 157 F. Supp. 453 (S.D. IL 1957)

6Paper Converting Mach. Co. v. FMC Corp., 274 F. Supp. 372 (1967)

7Application of Heinle, 647 F.3d 723 (7th Cir. 2011)

8Paper Converting Mach. Co., Inc. v. FMC Corp., 432 F. Supp. 907 (E.D. WI 1977)

9Paper Converting Mach. Co. v. Magna-Graphics Corp., 680 F.2d 483 (7th Cir. 1982)

10Marcal Paper Mills, Inc. v. Scott Paper Co., 290 F. Supp. 43 (NJ 1968)

11Safeway Stores v. Dunnell, 172 40 F. 577 (NY 1889)

12Morgan Envelope Co. v. Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Co., 647 F.3d 723 (7th Cir. 2011)

13Sheridan-Clayton Paper Co. v. U.S. Envelope Co., 232 F. 153 (8th Cir. 1916)

14In re Northern Paper Mills, 20 C.C.P.A. 1109 (1933)

15Scott Paper Co. v. Scott’s Liquid Gold, Inc., 439 F. Supp. 1022 (DE 1977)

16National Cash Register Co. v. National Paper Products Co., 54 App. D.C. 278 (1924)

17Sauquoit Paper Co. v. Weistock, 18 C.C.P.A. 927 (1931)

18Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., 647 F.3d 723, 725 (7th Cir. 2011)