FTC closes Gore-Tex investigation; EU Commission inquiry continues

The Federal Trade Commission has closed its two-year investigation of W.L. Gore & Associates, saying it will take “no further action” against the company for alleged exclusionary practices related to its Gore-Tex waterproof-breathable membranes.
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The Federal Trade Commission has closed its two-year investigation of W. L. Gore & Associates, saying it will take “no further action” against the company for alleged exclusionary practices related to its Gore-Tex waterproof-breathable membranes.

The decision to end the investigation does not imply that violations did or did not occur, FTC officials said. The investigation was conducted in nonpublic setting — largely to protect intellectual property rights — leaving few details of the findings.

In November 2010, the FTC opened its investigation of Gore to determine whether the company engaged in unfair methods of competition by contracts, exclusionary practices, or other conduct. Preceding the investigation, several outdoor brands complained within close circles that Gore was squashing competition by denying its waterproof-breathable technology to certain brands that also chose to use competing third-party waterproof-breathable technologies, such as Polartec’s NeoShell, GE’s eVent and Columbia’s OutDry in other products. No brand has gone on record to say that it helped instigate the FTC case.

Gore officials told SNEWS they fully cooperated with the FTC investigation, providing government officials more than 1.6 million documents from the past 10 years to review.

“From the start we were confident in our business practices, and felt we were and remain in compliance with applicable law,” Gore officials said following the recent FTC conclusion. Gore declined to offer any detail of those business practices at center of the investigation.

“We will continue to protect our IP,” officials told SNEWS. “For Gore, it all goes back to the consumer and providing them with quality innovative products that meet our ‘fitness for use’ standards. Gore enters into licensing agreements with brands who share our values for innovation, product quality and fitness for use.”

A separate investigation into Gore’s business practices continues in Europe, where Columbia and its Italian subsidiary OutDry filed a complaint in June 2011. The complaint to the Commission of the European Union alleges Gore “violated European Union competition laws by abusing its dominant position in the market for waterproof breathable membranes for footwear and gloves.”

"We continue to stand by our complaint which was filed in Europe and is still pending,” Columbia officials told SNEWS, adding that it did not file the complaint with the FTC.

--David Clucas

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