Cloth Diapering Personal Posts

Black Market Cloth Diapers & Intellectual Property Infringement

Intellectual Property Infringement and #clothdiapers via @chgdiapers

I know that a post like this is likely to come across as judgmental. I want to begin by saying that the purpose of this post is not to condemn anyone for knowingly or unknowingly purchasing infringing diapers, nor to make myself seem superior. I simply want to raise awareness of this issue. The examples I pictured are just diapers that made me say “hmm.” Unfortunately I don’t know how to know for sure whether a diaper is infringing without asking the creator of the diaper possibly being infringed upon. — Editing to add that the reason I entitled this “intellectual property infringement” rather than “patent infringement” is that it goes beyond patented aspects and includes other intellectual property. In my post about cloth diaper co-ops, I briefly mentioned patent infringement as an issue, but this is not limited to co-op cloth diapers. In fact, any reputable retailer will be cautious about carrying diapers that may be infringing, lest they be held liable. I’m aware that this is still an issue for big retailers such as Amazon, and I don’t know what the answer is, other than to contact them to request removal of each diaper & each seller carrying them.

Getting a patent is a time consuming and costly venture. No matter how you feel about whether or not the company had the “right” to obtain the patent, they did. The USPTO approved it, and it is legally theirs. Reading a patent can be confusing, and most U.S. manufacturers who hold a patent are aware of that. This is why you will see them sometimes reaching out to work-at-home-moms (WAHMs) to point out the infringing aspects of their diapers & offer a licensing option (if available) or request that they make changes to their pattern. You will often see diapers that look very similar, but have a different pocket opening, snap configuration, closure type or material in order to comply with the patent of another brand.

baby wizard bg knockoff bg
There are many overseas brands that are very clearly copying parts or all of a U.S. patented diaper including design, appearance or prints. When these overseas brands are imported into the U.S. that becomes a problem for the people importing and selling them.

baby wizard hh knockoff hh
Many work-at-home moms purchase their materials from the same supplier, so you will often see the same prints on different WAHM diapers. That’s not a problem. You may also see imported brands with nearly identical diapers, and typically those are purchased from the same factory.

gdiapers knockoff gdiapers

Custom PUL is expensive, and a manufacturer who does this is careful about whom they hire to do it as well as the legal agreements involved, lest they see their PUL sold to other companies. In many cases, overseas factories are copying and printing popular U.S. prints and/or are printing unlicensed character PUL. This makes their diapers even more desirable to U.S. customers since they can’t get these prints elsewhere. Disney and other companies do sell licensed fabric to craft stores however, in order to use these materials on products you sell, you need to obtain permission (licensing) from the company. I can almost guarantee that the PUL printed overseas with popular characters is 100% unauthorized.

mod flower knockoffgrovia mod flower
owls knockoff another grovia owl knockoff grovia owls
Big brands like Bumgenius, Applecheeks and GroVia are known for their unique prints. Developing these designs & having them printed is a labor of love, and someone’s creativity went into every one. They didn’t simply decide they liked an artist’s work and took it for their own use. Though I don’t know the details, I’m certain that Cottonbabies and Chelsea Perry have an agreement in place so that Ms. Perry is fairly compensated for the use of her artwork.

blueberry print knockoff blueberry
Some draw analogies between knock-off diapers and generic groceries, toys etc. When analogies come into play, things can get a little gray.

our generation american girl
I’ve seen the doll items that are clearly heavily inspired by American Girl, but I’ve never seen one that was identical. Legality? Not sure. Today I’m talking about diapers, and diapers alone.

alva group with lovelace knockoff lovelace knockoff gone

See above, looks like the Lovelace knockoff may have been successfully removed from Alva. However, there are still others out there.

lovelacelovelace knockoff

You may wonder why I care about this. While it’s none of my business what you personally purchase, I care very much about the cloth diaper industry. I wouldn’t knowingly purchase a knockoff of any product, though I’m not interested in investigating patents before I purchase a toy either.

If we as consumers refuse to purchase these items, we’re sending the right message. As long as we continue to purchase them, companies will have to spend time and resources protecting their patents, which will eventually lead to increased prices for all of us.

Is buying a diaper from a reputable retailer the best way to ensure you don’t purchase an infringing diaper? What else can we as consumers do?

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Maria is an aspiring "fit mom" of 3 children, writing about cloth diapers, going green, and her life as a single mom. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development, and other services.
  • January 24, 2017 at 9:02 am

    […] groups and talk about buying from Target instead of them. Brands suffer when people turn to black market products and copycats infringing on their intellectual property. While I wish every shop would succeed, the […]

  • April 26, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    […] Some China manufacturers knowingly steal the intellectual property and designs of big brand diapers (example: Alva made a knockoff print of the bumGenius Lovelace pattern–but has been removed from the market). Change Diapers wrote a brief, but great post about this. […]

  • Stephanie Miranda
    January 2, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Thank you for writing about this, I’m not going to lie it is tempting considering the price and cute prints but I have yet and now don’t plan on purchasing any.

  • November 17, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    […] of price and quantity, but buyers should be aware of potential drawbacks. Some of these diapers are illegal knock-offs. Others are re-brands without good customer service to back them up. Many will take weeks to ship. […]

  • November 14, 2014 at 11:30 am

    […] blogging world has been abuzz with news of copy-cat diapers, “China-cheapies,” and black market diapers tainting the cloth diaper industry and disappointing customers. These diapers copy patented […]

  • October 21, 2014 at 10:08 am

    […] or “grey market***.” These cloth diapers can be problematic for several reasons, many of which have been covered here by Maria of […]

  • lisa
    October 3, 2014 at 12:06 am

    I specifically order all my diapers from overseas, $18 a diaper is outrageous. I buy everything cheap. I have been desperately longing for alva bj28, it is way cuter print than who ever they supposedly copied.

  • Sarah O.
    March 13, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Not to specifically call anyone out – but is there a list somewhere of the “Knock Off” brands or rebranded “Knock Offs”? Are Kawaii’s non-compliant due to copyright infringement? I didn’t know that one.

  • March 12, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    I think its great you’re addressing this issue. Its has been an issue for the 14 years I have been in the business. Quite often companies products are founded on the theft of another persons (often a WAHM) designs. I own 3 patents myself, two specifically for my invention of a one size cloth diaper. This design was borrowed by several larger companies who nearly ran me our of business. Its sad to say, but it takes a big popular brand having issues to bring this problem to light. Maybe some day someone will speak up for the little guy.

  • Natalie
    March 12, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    I know a lot of people don’t care. That is sad because it shows the value they place on other’s creations and ideas. I don’t think they would want that attitude reciprocated towards their hard work, but they don’t think of it that way.

    I work for a small business and understand how bad it can also hurt your company’s reputation if people associate inferior products with your brand.

  • Snegasmum
    March 12, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I completely understand the frustration these companies have with Chinese manufacturers stealing their special made prints. That has to be infuriating, but aren’t GroVia and Rumparooz made in China?

    Here’s my experience: my hubby has gotten cranky in his “old age” and insisted that I buy some Chinese cheapies because he wanted only pocket diapers. He refuses to use flats or prefolds (also made in China for the most part, right?). He actually flat out refused to do cloth this time around in the beginning but I ignored him and bought some anyway with money my mom gave me for baby essentials. None of hubby’s refusal to change flats or prefolds makes any sense because he changed them for years on our other cloth kiddos. I’ve nearly given up and switched back to ‘sposies over it all. Enough of that long story– I was just explaining the reason why I have and use Chinese cheapies.

    Anyway, I didn’t want to like them but they fit my baby very well and have held up amazingly well over the last 17 months. I can’t say the same for my GroVia and sad to say not even my Rumparooz. GroVia are very expensive. I’ve dealt with leaks, stains that won’t go away (the Chinese cheapies don’t hold on to the stains like GroVias), rough spots inside the diapers that caused open sores on my baby and sticky tabs (GroVia disposable inserts) that left a sticky permanent mess on my AI2 covers. When I contacted the company about this problem they didn’t seem too concerned with it and told me to use goo gone to scrub it off. (whaaa?) If I hadn’t paid so much for the darned things I’d throw them away. I will definitely never buy another OS GroVia diaper.

    I have two Rumparooz and both very quickly lost the elasticity in the legs. I’m just glad my baby has thunder thighs or they’d probably be useless. Unlike GroVia though, they wash and rinse very nicely.

    Come to think of it, I have two BumGenious pockets that also lost most of their leg elasticity too.

    Again, I hate to say it but the Chinese Cheapies have held up much better and cost a fraction of the price of name brands. It stinks but it’s why people will continue to buy them.

    • Stacy McCain
      March 12, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      I’ve had problems with both sides of the board. The China Cheapies I bought weren’t worth a hoot after a a few months, and not long after getting my flips, had horrible issues with the elastic and the inside part. I was hesitant to try WAHM diapers because of it, but I was glad I did. Maybe I have bad luck with factory made?

    • Jennifer O.
      March 14, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      I have had the opposite problem then you the China Cheapie diapers all leaked and delaminated. I have never had my Bumgenius or Flips do that. The elastic thing also must be user error, because all our eleastics are tight as can be in the Bumgenius and Flips, whereas my cheap china dipes all lost elasticity after the second or third use. I say you get what you pay for and I paid for better quality diapers since the china ones were all basically trash. Also, the China companies refuse to refund me, only offering replacement diapers that were also trash.

      • Snegasmum
        March 14, 2014 at 9:20 pm

        Um, I’ve been cloth diapering for 10 years. I think I know when the leg elastic is going out on a Definitely *not* user error. Like I said in my post, this was *my personal experience*. Unfortunately, I didn’t get what I paid for with the GroVias. The Rumparooz I won in a giveaway so they were free but they still rinse and wash much better than the GroVias. My experience is mine and yours is yours. Just because you had a certain experience doesn’t mean that’s the same experience everyone else has had. Generally, you do get what you pay for but for me, in this instance, it just wasn’t the case.

  • Amy Hall
    March 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I didn’t think your post was rude at all. I do understand the gist, but to me it seems more important that the diapers themselves, the features, functions, aren’t exactly the same (though I’ve heard some come very close?) That seems like a much bigger deal to me than the print. I don’t buy a diaper based on print. I choose a diaper based on whether or not I like how it works and then yes, from what they have available I’ll choose prints that I like.

  • Becca Peter
    March 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Most people consider Amazon to be a reputable retailer, yet they are filled with illegal and infringing diapers. Most people consider Kelly’s Closet to be a reputable retailer, yet they sell non-compliant Kawaii diapers.

    What can people do? Complaining to the CPSC and Amazon about illegal products is a good place to start. Putting pressure on retailers to stop carrying non-compliant brands is a good place to start. Leave negative reviews on the products that are illegal. Only the copyright holder can get infringing prints removed from Amazon, yet 6 months after Cotton Babies and Grovia were made aware of listings on Amazon that violate their copyrights, the exact same listings remain. Either Amazon doesn’t think there is a violation, or those companies aren’t trying hard enough.

    I’m glad you’re not framing this as a co-op issue.

    • Angela
      March 12, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      I have a question about compliancy. This only applies to products sold in the US, correct? I’m in Canada so last time I looked into it (which I’ll admit was awhile ago) none of this applies to me. Same with the patents that Cotton Babies and Rumparooz hold. So “technically” all of these diapers are not illegal for me to purchase, it’s just if I sold them to someone in the US, right? Again, not talking ethically, just legally.

      • Becca Peter
        March 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm

        Canada has their own regulations, and I am honestly not familiar with them. I believe that Kawaii meets all of the Canadian regulations, but not the US regulations. Since I don’t know what Canada requires, I can’t really comment on other brands.

      • Misty
        March 12, 2014 at 7:46 pm

        Angela, there are regulations in Canada as well, albeit some not nearly as strict as the US. On the topic of patents and copyright, however, you very much do need to pay attention to that. I know that Cottonbabies, Inc holds many of their patents in a few different countries.

        I do have a group of ladies that are currently digging through the compliance regulations of Health Canada and the Competition Bureau and you are more than welcome to join in on the conversation if you are available on Facebook ( From what we are aware, you, as the manufacturer, are not required to comply with another country’s regulations. It is the responsibility of the purchaser/importer to ensure their shipments comply with their own country’s regulations.

        (For anyone in the USA, there is also a group for compliance:

        Anyone interested in the “compliance” of copyright and patents should start with or also works for patent searches as they are linked with the USPTO.

    • Stacy McCain
      March 12, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      I want to agree with your comment, but the snide remark blows the whole thing apart. I’m certain that you are referencing the RDA article on their position of co-ops and its seemingly obvious that you talk a lot but aren’t able to read (I believe it was you that had a long to-do about it in diaperswappers?). In fact, the first thing that is said (on page 3) is why they focused on co-ops. I would copy the part that states their reasoning, but the website asks that it is shared in its totality as to not take away from the information at hand. So, if you would like to re-read or if anyone else would like to be clued in to your snide remark and have read:

  • Angela
    March 12, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Let me preface what I’m about to say by saying I don’t think copyright or patent infringement is acceptable, but it is part of the cost of outsourcing overseas. When a company chooses to to have their products manufactured in China (whether it’s the actual diaper or the PUL with a print etc) they must know that there is a chance it will happen to them. China doesn’t have copyright laws and doesn’t respect other countries copywrite/patent laws. If a company is serious about wanting to protect their intellectual property, they shouldn’t manufacture there.

    • Katrina
      March 12, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      I agree.

    • Becca Peter
      March 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Angela – It doesn’t matter if they make the PUL in China or not. If a Chinese company sees a print they like, they just make a replica. They have reps on US soil who purchase American diapers and ship them back to China to analysis. Notice how some of the prints are not identical? They were re-created.

      • Angela
        March 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm

        I wasn’t aware they did that. I’m not surprised since that happens in all businesses. Companies buy, dissect and analyze their competitors products to see what changes they can make to circumvent any patents all the time. Guess the difference is they do it legally.

  • March 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

    I am so glad that you took the time to write about this, it is so important for people to in the very least know what they are buying. Many of the “China cheapies” are also not compliant with the CPSC so people importing them could get into legal trouble. In addition, not being compliant with the CPSC can pose danger to the children wearing the diapers.

  • stacy w
    March 12, 2014 at 11:35 am

    To me it is also about the quality of the work and being able to contact the company. I bought a second hand Grovia aio which was missing the booster. I contacted the company and they were able help me obtain a booster. That is who I want to do business with.

  • Katie F
    March 12, 2014 at 11:08 am

    I hate seeing the prints ripped off. It’s really sad and like you said they (companies like GroVia and bumGenius) spend a lot of money to have those unique prints. If everyone in the cloth diaper community refused to by blatant knock offs of the diapers, that would probably help. Sadly, that just won’t happen because some people really want a print like Lovelace and are happy they can buy it dirt cheap from china. This is just really unfortunate.

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