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L’Oréal sues Drunk Elephant for Patent Infringement

Tue Feb 12th, 2019 by  General Legal

By: Cecilia Von Mann

In the beauty and skin care industry, there is one trend more popular than matte lipsticks, blinding highlighter, and #selfcare combined. This is duping. For those of you who do not watch Jeffree Star videos religiously, duping is when cheaper products are created to be comparable to higher quality and more expensive products.

Throughout the internet, one can find hundreds of articles, blog posts, and YouTube videos discussing ways to save and look great doing it by buying these dupes. From Yves Saint Laurent to Anastasia Beverly Hills to Dior, luxury brands are copied and often sold in drugstores at a fraction of the price. For consumers, this is a win. They are able to be frugal and fabulous all at once. Despite this, duping can negatively impact the brands involved. This trend has persisted without legal ramifications and has been treated as an annoyance and a mere pain in the side for the higher priced beauty companies.

Although ingredients are required to be listed by law, the specific percentages and other details are not. It seems as though this problem of duping could be easily prevented by patenting the formula. Conversely, the exact opposite is perceived to be true. In fact, many makers of beauty products do not patent their creations because it is believed that they are more likely to be duped. This is due to the fact that when filing for a patent all the specific ingredients surrounding the formula must be revealed.

This is what is believed to have happened to L’Oréal’s smaller skin care brand, Skinceuticals, with their preventative C E Ferulic vitamin C serum. The company patented their award-winning formula and enjoyed the benefits of being widely approved by consumers and dermatologists alike. The cost for this serum rang in around $170. Like many luxury brands, the quest by other companies to dupe their product at a fraction of the cost began. Drunk Elephant successfully managed to recreate their product down to the golden color and weird hot dog-like smell for half the cost at only $80.

Although huge brands like L’Oréal are usually able to ignore dupes like this without any major impacts, Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma serum began to make a dent on their share of the market even winning Allure’s Best of Beauty , an award that the Skinceuticals version had previously won three times.

Now a lawsuit has been filed by L’Oreal, the parent company of Skinceuticals, against Drunk Elephant claiming there has been an infringement on their utility patent that they have held since 2007 for their specific mixture of vitamin C, ferulic acid, and vitamin E. L’Oréal is calling for damages to be repaid to them and for Drunk Elephant to stop producing the formula all together.

The result of this case will be of interest to both brands and consumers. The implications would have widespread effects in the beauty community and could reverse the belief surrounding patenting formulas. Furthermore, what would it mean for Danielle Bregoli, more commonly known by her rap name, Bhad Bhabie or the “cash me outside, how ’bout dat” girl and her new brand Copycat Beauty, a company advertised solely on being dupes of more expensive products. Overall, the decision from this case could alter the culture in this industry and could also mean potential legal problems for those smaller companies who have practiced this trend of duping in the past.

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