Menstrual Cups

Intellectual Property Rights

On the subject of certain cup brands being considered “copies” of others… I asked Teresa from http://www.femininewear.co.uk to write up something on the recent cup happenings, since she’s more involved in it than I am… here it is:

“What does that mean exactly? This legal term IPR, Intellectual Property Rights came up recently in relation to my business. I am the managing Director of Feminine Wear in the UK and we sell reusable menstrual products. We sell cloth pads, menstrual cups and sea sponge tampons.

We have been gradually increasing our stock in order to give our customers as much choice as possible but it seems that we may not be able to achieve that with menstrual cups.
We have been prevented from selling 3 brands so far and the manufacturers have quoted IPR in all cases.

The Green Donna menstrual Cup and the MPower Menstrual Cup appear to be copies of the Lunette Menstrual Cup and the Iriscup appears to be a copy of the Ladycup.

In all 3 cases we were contacted by the company that holds the IPR for their product and were warned that we would face legal action if we sold these brands of menstrual cup.

We have never seen a Green Donna or Iriscup.

But the most recent case was the one between the Lunette company and the Mpower company. We have been selling the MPowercup since August 2009 with no problems at all. And then Lunette noticed that we were selling them and asked us not to order any more stock. But we were given permission to sell the cups that we still have. We were also told that a customs block had now been put on the MPower cup so that it could not be imported into any EU country.

As it stands at the moment we cannot sell the MPowercup but we may be given permission in the future.

Intellectual Property covers 4 elements – Patents, Trade Marks, Designs and Copyright. It allows people to own the work that they create. We were informed by Lunette that they held the IPR in relation to their design, in particular the flat stem and the rim of the cup.

What do you think? Do the flat stems and rims look similar or are Lunette over reacting? Have MPower copied the design of the Lunette? We will have to wait for the outcome of any legal action to find out!

Teresa Francis
http://www.femininewear.co.uk”

Here are some comparison photos Teresa has taken of Mpower and Lunette

more can be found here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/feminine-wear/sets/72157624198514848

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June 4, 2010 - Posted by | news

13 Comments »

  1. My personal opinion…..

    I’ve only seen the Mpower in photos like this (they seemingly ignored my request for a sample so I could review it here).. so I don’t know how similar they actually are… However it seems to me, that they are *very* similar, so I can see what Lunette are concerned about.

    I haven’t seen a Green Donna either, only in pictures like this – http://community.livejournal.com/menstrual_cups/1744898.html (where the poster says it’s identical to Lunette)… but it appears to likewise be *very* similar to Lunette (I’m being polite and not saying it’s a “copy” :))

    Essentially all the cups are “copies” if you like, of the menstrual cups that were patented way back in the 1930s (Tasette, Daintette and the Chalmer’s cup) – http://www.clothpads.org/Cups_history.html

    But I presume (not being a lawyer :)) that something can have the same idea/shape type thing, but needs to have enough points of difference for it to be a new item and not a copy.

    So it seems to me that the issue is not just the tab stem (since no mention of Miacup and Fleurcup being a problem)… but the fact that the stems are the same AND the overall cup shape is virtually the same too – so there aren’t enough points of difference.

    Both Mpower and Green Donna seem to have the same ridge area Lunette has – which is only slightly raised from the body of the cup…. Miacup has a more protrusive (poking out) ridge than the Lunette (So it’s ridge is more like Mooncup). Fleurcup (who flat out refused to send me one because they said they weren’t interested in marketing outside of the UK – so I also haven’t seen that in real life) appears to have no ridge (so smoother than Lunette, something more similar to Ladycup).. so maybe the ridge area of Miacup and Fleurcup give it enough difference to be not considered a Lunette copy – even though they both have flat tab stems too… but since Mpower and Green Donna both have the flat tab stem and the same low profile ridge – that makes them too similar.

    I admit, I’m too lazy to go see if the measurements of them all are similar too, but I don’t think taking off or adding on a few milimetres and still keeping the same overall look would be considered different enough.

    I do think it’s great that we are now getting lots of brands to choose from – the more cups out there the more it’ll get into mainstream and the more women will at least be aware that they exist (and hopefully eventually switch to using them)… but not if it’s just producing something that is essentially a copy of another brand – that’s not the way to go about it.

    Hopefully any brands who currently have IP issues (Mpower, Green Donna, Iriscup) will redesign their cups to havea product that is their own, and can continue to bring out their brand of cups and keep the options open for women.

    Comment by obsidian | June 4, 2010

  2. Thanks for the update. When I was researching menstral cups I contacted the Mpower people (as they are made in South Africa and would have been an easy & convenient choice for me). The lady advised me that she had copied the Lunette exactly but that she only had the one size.

    Thank goodness I opted for the LadyCup in the end. I would hate to support someone who is making money from someone else’s design.

    Comment by Menstral Cup User SA | June 4, 2010

  3. Thank you for publishing my article. I hadn’t realised how similar the 2 brands were until I photographed them together. A lot of my customers have commented on my Facebook page tyhat they felt Lunette were being unfair. But, now I’m not so sure as they are very similar.
    On a positive note, MPower have a new design in the pipeline!

    Comment by Femininewear | June 4, 2010

  4. I made a menstrual cup zine that entails information about the differences of cups. I feel it can make a pretty huge difference, the subtle differences of each cup. To me, though it might be because of the different types of material (which right there makes a difference already), the MPower looks alittle broader and the holes larger.

    One of these days, I would love to have a hands-on workshop for women to feel all the different types of cups, and what these cup companies need to understand is that all of these cups are unique. It is important women have choices!

    Comment by Stephanie Holz | June 4, 2010

  5. Just great Teresa’s article and great review of yours, Obsidian :-))!

    There is a major difference between the large Lunette and the MPower, that is about the difference of textures.
    And as on the MeLuna cup, the inner surface and the external one are and feel different on the MPower.
    And these (both smooth) surfaces make the MP even more pleasant or easy to clean and wipe than the marvellous Lunette :).

    And if the MP is a copy of the Lunette, it may/would be an extra large size lol ;-)…

    Oh if you are interested, (so I used both cups, as Melissa), and we both wrote some details about the L and the MP on the Feminine Wear fan page, on Facebook _ comments under the photo for the MPower cup (but you already commented there, so you have seen it of course 😉 ) And very recently, under the same comparison photo as the one above.
    Here, Melissa pointed out some elements — well pressuming differences must be too small, as you wrote :).

    Ah :), I also precised various – significant differences between the Lunette and the Fleurcup too, still on the Feminine Wear Facebook page, under the photo of the new *blue* Fleurcup… (if you’d feel like having a look.)

    Kisses ! :))
    Q.

    Comment by Quitterie | June 4, 2010

  6. The flat stems look similar but are different sizes and the rims are not the same at all. The Mpower looks more “square” or sharper and not only that but the cups are different sizes and shapes. The air holes are also in different spots.
    Green Donna however, looks like an identical ripoff(sorry, no other way to say it) and recently someone on the LJ forums mentioned some strange looking Chinese cups that appear to be copies of Lunettes or photoshopped photos of them being sold under a different Chinese brand name. I think they should worry about THAT first, and not grasping “similarity” straws with Mpower which is a struggling one person business. I’m not sure about measurements but I heard they were different as well.
    Furthermore, has Lunette ever made a patent or copyright claim on their products? They freely give out samples as well. These are things they may want to think about.

    Comment by Someone | June 4, 2010

  7. Well, Divacup USED to have a more pronounced rim like the Keeper and Mooncup UK. But now they have smoothed out their second rim, just like Lunette (this is the version I have). And of course as it has been mentioned before, Fleurcup and Miacup also have flat stems. So it seems that a lot of companies have extremely similar traits.

    I know Keeper was fighting with Mooncup UK about this, claiming Mooncup stole their design, and also got them blocked from shipping to the USA. And to be fair, its true, Keeper and Mooncup UK are quite similar in shape, the major (and seemingly only?) difference shape-wise is that Mooncup UK has grip rings at the base, while Keeper does not. And maybe a slightly more rounded bottom.

    However, I think giving their silicone version of Keeper the same name as the UK cup was a bit childish… This (I’ve heard) blocks the UK Mooncup from selling to the USA even if the UK company DOES change their design, since 2 products with the same name and nature cannot both sell in the USA. That’s just plain dirty, I think a company should leave the door open to where another company can make corrections.

    I still respect Lunette for that much, because as it stands, Mpower could simply make some design tweaks, and be back in business with the European market again. I mean, Lunette never ran off and named one of their new cups “Lunette M Power” or something like that, lol. And I don’t think they would either. Although I don’t know if the UK holds the same rules about product names.

    Comment by menstrualcupinfo | June 4, 2010

  8. Hehe interesting..
    I’ve been using cups for almost 5 years and have 3 Divacups : a small and a large ones from the previous version, and a large one that is more recent ; I came across this one in a green food store (and it was the only one left, ah!)

    On the actual Diva, the second rim shape is smoothed as you said, but still is pretty thick (I do like this new rim.)
    Plus, the holes are slightly bigger, and above all, are straight.
    With the earlier pattern, the Diva was the very first cup that came with slanted holes (before the Lady 😉 ; but i can’t see the holes styles on the older cups, Tassette etc.)
    These holes of the Diva were very slanted and very tiny too lol. (That was a nice idea but ouch! for cleaning them — beside, you had told about the difficulty to unblock these holes in your sites, Obsidian :).)

    The actual holes now are closer to the Mooncup’s ones.

    When i started with cups, the referential one was the Mooncup (uk), while the Keeper was the first re-modern – nowadays cup.
    On the other hand, the Moon was the very first that was made of medical grade silicone, so i understood its success, and noticed its quality/resistance over time.

    Moreover, maybe 4 years ago, i had read a sentence on a forum, can’t be sure which one it was, but it may have been the Live Journal. That was a topic on which ladies compared cups (essentially the “old” Moon and the “old” Diva).
    And a cupper wrote a sentence such as : “Now the Mooncup has ridges, like the Divacup”..
    Soooo… it there wasn’t a mistake here, that’d mean at the beginning the Moon was even a bit closer to the Keeper (for having a smooth base) ; and later, got a little closer to – and got inspired by the Divacup.
    And that would also imply the ridges/gripping lines on the base of cups are an initiative/invention of the Divacup company, at the very first.

    (Just as a wink = i actually think i would appreciate even more a Mooncup without its ridges, lol, or maybe with the highest one only, or so.. Ah !)

    Anyway, in order to make our spirits more peaceful lol and quiet ;-P :
    As much the Keeper as the Mooncup (sorry, not sure this is correct English!) initially got strongly inspired by the Tassette’s pattern.
    These both brands look extremely close to the Tassette’s shape, and volume i guess, (even if the rim seems a little more “concave” on the Mother Cup Tassette..)
    And yeah… “Tadah !”.. This specific cup was THE very first “modern” cup !! (If i’m not wrong ;).)

    Also, one could pressume the Fleurcup rim is pretty alike the Foldene’s one, isn’t it.

    And, considering the ridges on the long stem of the Alicia pod (cf the references for photos on Melissa’s blog, on you own blog Obsidian and on the EasyCup site and Wiki notably, easycup.fr.)
    =
    Do you also see how the projecting ridges on this stem look close to the ones on the (.. still THIS cup lol..) Tassette’s stem ? 😀
    ;-D

    So every cup got inspired / influenced by another brand for one trait or another, and i just think it’s great, not to forget they ALL do an amazing work, and not to mention that nowadays, it would be hard for a woman not to be able to find *any* cup that’d fit her anatomy and that would please her.
    Heheee, because… yeah, that’s what we call the choice. Yes. 😀

    Comment by Quitterie | June 5, 2010

  9. I made a mistake.. the Diva new (second) rim isn’t “that thick” _ It’s similar to the Lunette’s, as Melissa wrote.

    The Divacup also innovated for presenting — was the first cup that came with =

    – A long shape
    – A grainy texture
    – Placing of the holes right under the (first) rim (not like holes that are almost at an half level of the cup lenght _ hence allowing much more capacity, specially with such tiny slanted holes, presumably)
    – A smooth inner surface (not any relief lines on the inner face. So unlike the Keeper, Moon us and the previous version of the Mooncup which was more yellowish too, which to me, was rather more pliable, and didn’t have the measuring lines yet..)
    – Some measurements (and both in ml and oz ; cool)

    I’m writing this just for fun 😀 ah
    And, since 1987, maybe the Keeper did change too afterall… Who knows ? 😉

    Is someone aware of it ?

    Comment by Quitterie | June 5, 2010

  10. Well the Keeper’s patent describes the stem as being a hollow tube with a stopper that would allow the cup to be emptied while in place.

    I don’t know if they ever manufactured them that way, or found that in practice that idea didn’t work and only ever made the ones they do…. but yeah, the patent is different to what they produce (unless they patented a second design without the stopper thing)

    — I would think that if Lunette are making any statements at all about this issue, then they must be pretty solidly sure that their intellectual property has been breeched… so I would presume they have talked about it with lawyers and such and know what their rights and responsibilities are.

    Comment by obsidian | June 8, 2010

  11. Hello again,

    Frankly, I understand everybody’s points of view, but must admit that (even if i always considered Lunette’s team as a great reliable team and still do), i feel closer to Stephanie’s and Someone’s thoughts :)..

    Besides, Stephanie, your zine sounds tremendous !
    Would you tell us its name or let us a link for a website of yours ? ;-D
    Cheers !
    Quitt.

    Comment by Quitterie | June 8, 2010

  12. ok… now I’ve had a chance to look at them both in person (Lunette and Mpower)….

    I can see lots of slight differences….(Going by shape alone…)… though I do think on the surface it does look basically the same, you have to look harder to see differences.

    Differences:

    MPower is a fraction larger diameter than the Lunette
    Lunette stem is rounded at the ends, MPower is squared
    MPower holes are slightly larger
    MPower base is slightly wider
    Lunette is a fraction longer
    The rim on the Lunette is very slightly thicker
    The ridge part (where the cup gets thicker toward the top) is a fraction wider/longer (however you want to consider it) than Lunette.

    Similarities:
    The stems appear to be an identical length
    The ridges on the stem are exactly the same spacing
    The first 2 ridges on the base of the cup are exactly the same spacing (the 3rd is a fraction out)

    There is a difference in the type of silicone, the MPower feels a little more plasticky (like the Femmecup) and not as flexible/squishy

    Comment by obsidian | August 7, 2010

  13. This is the trouble with IPRs – legally speaking they are relatively new and often not well thought through, and there are a fair amount of double standards when it comes to companies from the developing world. They take little account of “form follows function”. The truth is that a cup is a cup – in the same way a tea bag is a tea bag. Form following function, you are always going to have a basic design which is very similar to all the other designs out there. That’s why different brands of tea bag, with one or two minor differences all look more or less the same.

    The makers of minor brands of cups could very well have gone back to the original designs of the 1930s and arrived at their cup designs the same way that Lunette arrived at there’s. When you did not invent something, but developed an idea from a pre-existing design, you cannot blame others for doing the same. Cups are too expensive for many women in the developing world. Having greater choice for those women, and indeed for us, can only be a good thing.

    Comment by Scottishboomerang | October 6, 2010


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