DuPont Textiles and Interiors (DTI) and Outlast today announced that the two companies had formed an equity alliance partnership. As part of the agreement, DTI has acquired a minority interest in Outlast.
Tim Dummer, the global business manager for DTI overseeing the partnership, told SNEWS® that DTI has realized that the best way for the company to innovate and bring new products to market is to create strategic third party alliances such as the one with Outlast.
"We are very excited with the prospects that this alliance brings and with DTI's worldwide leadership position in innovative fiber engineering and marketing and are committed to becoming one of the world leaders in phase-change technology," says George Cattermole, Outlast CEO.
"Together, we can come up with systems that will drive the future of fibers and textiles through multifuntionality, not only of garments, but of the very fibers themselves," added Cattermole.
When Cattermole was asked about Outlast's lawsuit against Frisby (owners of the Comfortemp brand) for patent infringement, Dummer interjected that DuPont had looked very, very closely at the intellectual properties that Outlast has and would not have entered into an agreement with the company had DuPont not felt the intellectual properties were not extremely valuable.
Cattermole simply responded that the legal action against Frisby was ongoing and had not reached any resolution as yet. Frisby currently licenses the right to manufacture phase-change foam attached to a fabric with a thickness greater than 2 mm from Outlast.
As for the partnership with DuPont, Dummer told us that product with Outlast will be introduced to market by DTI as early as next year. As for how the products will be branded, Dummer also told us that it depends on the individual brand strengths in the market the introduction is being made.
"We might brand it 'Lycra with Outlast inside' -- kind of an 'Intel inside' kind of approach if that will make more sense for brand recognition, or we might choose to promote something as Outlast with Coolmax," says Dummer.
SNEWS® View: DTI, which is an estimated $6.5 billion business worldwide, needed this deal as much as Outlast did. We would place the investment in the range of a 10 percent ownership of Outlast. Knowing DuPont as we do, we would also suspect that it has an option to purchase an additional stake in Outlast, but probably not more than 5 percent. DuPont came to the table with cash, which Outlast certainly needed to help the company continue its aggressive R&D and repositioning of its marketing message. Outlast, which expected to be profitable by the end of this year, is now projecting profitability within the next six months -- a slight delay due to increased costs, some of which are related to legal costs. All that aside, Outlast is on a roll, now that others besides company engineers are explaining the virtues of the company's technology. We would expect to see Outlast appearing in Coolmax and Lycra products first. DTI and Outlast insiders tell us the companies are exploring ways to actually fill hollow fibers with Outlast instead of having to resort to encapsulation technology. That is not as far out as it seems as the process is already being performed in Asia -- just not with DuPont fibers. And, while Outlast's roots are certainly in outdoor specialty, we would suspect that outdoor, while still vitally important for image and performance enhancement, will be more of a minority play for it as the company moves forward with its technology. Bedding, casual footwear and everyday apparel appear to be naturals for the company as it seeks to build itself into a market leader.