Jack Boesch, director of marketing for MP Global Products, calls Pregis Corps’ patented underlayment technology “a game changer.” It is the main reason MP Global stopped selling its foam underlayment and instead collaborated with Pregis, becoming one of four companies approved to market and distribute Pregis’ patented line of Absolute flooring products.
“They have a patent, which is something [special],” he said. “You are either in or out. We had a choice to either stop selling the foam underlayment or work out an agreement with them. We believe in the strength of the Pregis patent.”
The other partner companies approved to sell the Pregis line are PakLite, Crown Hill Packaging and Diversified Foam.
Pregis has invested significant capital in developing its underlayment technology, which is the only patented lip and tape flooring system on the market. Boesch said there are companies trying to get around the patent by essentially marketing counterfeit products.
To its credit, Pregis has been resolute in enforcing its intellectual property. “Our biggest concern with what I call imitators is that quality suffers and consumers are not aware they are buying a product that does not meet specific requirements,” said Tom Wetsch, vice president of new product development at Pregis. “You can spot a counterfeit product by the quality of the foam, which is typically substandard; the film thickness or if the film is not fully covering the full width of the foam; if the film lip does not extend out enough, and if the adhesive strip is missing or mismatched, which can cause a problem in laying the lip over it.”
The salient features of this patented product are the lip and tape and how it installs under the floor. As Wetsch explained, “As each section is laid out they are attached, which creates the floating floor system. The joints are the weak links where if you do not get the foam matched up you can get soft spots under the floor, areas where moisture can get through due to gaps in the foam or film and inconsistent levels under the laminate. The
goal is to reduce movement as it creates an underlayment system. The moisture is what you want to avoid getting to the laminate. Laminate is highly susceptible to moisture, causing buckling and delamination from the underside. Our underlayment creates that total barrier system.”
Compliance and education
It is one thing to have a patent. It is another to convey the message to the industry about the features and benefits of this patented system and ensure compliance. “Our goal is to educate [major retailers, laminate floor producers and distributors] on what is there and how it works so they understand how performance is impacting what goes into the system and how that system, once installed, needs to last for years,” Wetsch said.
The trouble is many of the underlayment products are imported from China or are produced in the U.S. and suppliers have shortchanged the product by taking out cost or design around the patents; that in turn impacts the quality of the system. “When you invest in an expensive new laminate floor and installation, you hate to see people cut corners or be impacted by imitation underlayment products that can cause damage to the floor once installed,” Wetsch said.
MP Global’s Boesch, for one, salutes Pregis for taking a strong stand. “We spend good money to make sure we are within the boundaries of the law. It hurts to see others who are non-compliant.”