Insane in the Membrane
Read MIKE KESSLER's account of the battle between the iconic Gore-Tex brand and its waterproof-breathable fabric, and the newcomers who want a piece of the billion-dollar market.
Roy Plunkett, a chemist with Kinetic Chemicals, discovers polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a fluoropolymer that will later be branded Teflon.
Gore’s son, Bob, discovers that rapidly stretching PTFE results in a microporous structure—later dubbed expanded PTFE, or ePTFE. This will become the main ingredient in Gore-Tex fabric.
Seattle outdoor-gear company Early Winters uses Gore-Tex to create and market one of the first waterproof-breathable jackets.
Future Gore rival Malden Mills introduces Polartec—a performance-fleece brand. The company will later manufacture soft-shell fabrics and, eventually, waterproof-breathable ones.
Columbia and Italian subsidiary OutDry file a complaint with the Commission of the European Union about Gore’s business practices. A similar complaint is filed with the U.S. Federal Trade Commision.
Columbia develops its own proprietary waterproof-breathable technology, OmniDry, and starts using it in jackets and gloves, publicly vowing to “take down Gore-Tex.” Polartec launches NeoShell with an aggressive marketing campaign. Mountain Hardwear debuts Dry.Q, its proprietary fabric.
Official investigations by the EU and FTC are ongoing.