WASHINGTON - Chemical giants BASF Corp. and DuPont Co. are asking the Federal Trade Commission to give their manufactured fibers separate generic classifications. The firms claim their fibers are so widely used, but so different from any other generic types on the market, that they need their own rating.
Until a formal determination, which an FTC spokesman agreed could take years, BASF of Mount Olive, N.J., has been assigned BC 0001 as a generic name for its proprietary melamine fiber.
DuPont's Advanced Fibers Systems in Wilmington, Del., will use DP 0001 for its patented Teflon polytetrafluoroethylene fluorocarbon fiber.
Bret S. Smart, FTC program adviser in Los Angeles, said the companies requested generic names because they believe their respective products do not fall into any of about 20 established generic fiber categories under the federal Textile Fiber Products Identification Act. Other generics under the FTC rules include acetate, aramid, polyester, rayon and acrylic.
BASF applied for generic fiber status March 25. DuPont applied on April 4.
FTC officials had no explanation why the temporary status was granted to the firms on the same day, May 23.
Several rounds of negotiations and hearings, which Smart said in the past have taken years, await the two companies in their quest for generic classification.
Smart noted the FTC may request alternative names from experts in the fiber field if any ob-jections are heard during the public comment periods.
According to the FTC, both companies must prove their fiber:
Has a chemical composition ``radically different from other fibers,'' with properties ``of significance to the general public.''
Is in commercial use, or such use is immediately foreseen.
Is of importance to the consuming public.
Claudia Bourne Farrell, spokeswoman for the FTC's office of public affairs in Washington, said the temporary - and revocable - classification is not an indication that FTC believes the fibers are not significantly different from the other generic fibers on the market.
BASF Fibers Division spokeswoman Phyllis Vance in Char-lotte, N.C., described the FTC action as great news.
Vance said BASF soon will dedicate what she said is the world's first commercial plant to make its melamine-based heat-and flame-resistant fiber product, which uses the trade name Basofil.
The new BASF plant is near Asheville, N.C. The product is produced in a pilot plant in Germany, Vance said.
DuPont's Mark Vergnano, global business manager for Teflon fibers in Richmond, Va., said that firm is seeking a permanent FTC generic acceptance of the term ``fluorocarbon'' for its Teflon fiber.
DuPont sought the temporary classification to fulfill an FTC requirement for marketing the fiber product as a component of an athletic sock, Vergnano said.
``We had an opportunity to sell an athletic sock with Teflon fiber in the heel and toe, to reduce blisters. We had to get this generic classification from the FTC in order to sell the product,'' Vergnano said.
DuPont will continue to ``actively try to separate our DuPont trade names from those of the generic names. This will occur more, especially with those names we consider valuable within the marketplace,'' Vergnano said. Teflon, for example, ``has a distinct value in the marketplace,'' he said.
Any permanent changes could either involve an amendment of existing categories or the establishment of a new category, Smart said.
In any case, letters to the companies from Donald S. Clark, FTC secretary, noted the assignment of a temporary name does not indicate a granting or denial of the company's request.
Smart said each company may use a trademark along with the temporary generic name to aid product identification.