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Monday, October 11, 2010The language of labels

What value should be accorded to patents in cosmetics?

©Thinkstock /L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques

‘Registered patent, international patent, exclusive patent, patented active…’ The mention of a patent can appear, at the manufacturer’s discretion, very clearly on the front label of a cosmetic product, sometimes in the form of a logo, or it can appear almost discreetly, in just one word, as part of a claim. But what, exactly, does it mean? The range of meanings can be very different…

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First let’s point out that, as long as it is not misleading (i.e. referring to a patent that does not exist or has not been granted), the mention of a patent is not specifically regulated. It depends on the initiative of the manufacturer, who wishes to draw attention to the research efforts carried out by its brand to improve the effectiveness of its products, and leads us to expect an effect that others do not have.

As a general rule, filing a patent protects an invention. It implies that there is novelty and creation through the addition, mixture, or substantial modification of one of the elements that enters into the cosmetic product. As per this definition, you must keep in mind that a patent can apply either to an aspect of the formula (the properties of an ingredient, a novel complex of raw materials, an innovative formula, etc.) or to a closing system for a jar or a pump for a bottle. Sometimes labels specify what the patent applies to, but they also sometimes completely leave out this ‘detail’.

Patent secrets

The terms ‘novelty’ or ‘invention’ can also apply to very different realities. They can apply to synthetic molecules, which …

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