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Can cosmetics be patented ?

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pharma courses

Can cosmetics be patented

Cosmetic and patents are the words that are rarely used together. Promotion of cosmetics through ‘chemistry’ or ‘chemical’ is not a regular practice. Nevertheless, these terms like chemistry, cosmetics and patents often make up a successful composition that leads to the advancement of variety of beauty products. In USA, first patent was given to liquid soap in 1865 followed by patent for deodorant in 1888. Eugène Schueller invented lead-free and effective hair dye in 1907 for L’Oréal with research and development that now extends far beyond dyes and pigments to for example, applying the modern ‘omics’ approaches to discover new ways to halt or reverse skin ageing.

What is patent?
Patent is an exclusive intellectual right given to creator for a limited period of time and to bar others from making, using or selling it. This patent system acts as incentive for innovations by creators and giving them exclusive right for certain period of time. It allows innovators to get benefits from their respective innovations. Another aspect is that, this patent should be utilized in particular country and should boost further research and development in the field. The process of obtaining patent is almost same in different patent systems like India, US or Europe. There exist s lot of similarities and some differences among these systems. The differences lie in the patentability of inventions. US patent laws allow grant of patent to creator who invents or discovers any new; useful process, machine, composition or improvements for that matter. Whereas, Indian &; EU patent act elaborately illustrate what inventions are not patentable under different sections of the patent act.

Patent cooperation treaty (PCT) offers a simplified patent application procedure for over 140 countries worldwide. It enables creators to file single international application designating different countries. There are two steps involved in the process: International and National phase. In International phase, an international search and on request, international preliminary examination is also carried out.

Why to patent?
Patent is used to get commercial value out of innovations. All the investment done on research and development of the product is driven by the commercial value benefited out of it. This also bars competitors from manufacturing, selling the product without the consent of innovator.


What can be patented?
It can be taken for variety of innovations like for technology, compositions or formulations with specific claims. In cosmetic industry, usually compositions or formulations with ingredients like skin cream, sunscreen, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, nail polish, and fragrances are patented. Other innovations that are patented are related to substances like proteins with hair strengthen properties or devices such as electric facial cleansing brushes. There is not distinct line which methods can be patented like a method of reducing hair loss, decreasing fine lines, wrinkles, or assessing skin conditions. There are other innovations with purpose are also patentable like using micellar suspensions for skin cleaning; a process for making a product such as a process for preparing hyaluronic acid; a method of administration of a product like a skin patch for delivery of cosmetic ingredient; even a ‘product produced by a process’ like coconut oil obtained without heat. Further patents are related to packaging, applicators or dispenser, like lipstick case, mascara brush and capsule for serum.

What is Cosmetic patent?
For cosmetics and personal care industry, various patent filings revolve around new functionality needs, replacing existing one with alternative products or improve the feel and look of product. Year on year, multinationals introduce new products in the market which are extensively marketed. Moreover, they want to market these brands where they are backed by some scientific claims which in turn will increase their credibility. Cosmetic multinationals in turn invest more in Research and development of these products. This will drive the growth of cosmetic patent filings to protect formulation and its research. One of first patents in Cosmetic can be traced backed to in 1865 for a deodorant, followed by liquid soap in 1888. Patenting is essential in cosmetic industry which prevents others from making any other form or selling it at cheaper rates without the consent of innovator. It also prevents creation of ‘adulterated drugs’.


A patent family is “a group of patent documents all of which have the same set of priorities. I.e., it is a group of patent documents that protect the same invention across authorities”. Cosmetic patents are “all patents under the International Patent Classification (IPC) or Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) groups A61K 8 and A61Q. Their subordinated groups are included i.e. A61K 8/18”. For this type of patents, patent owners cover all patents held by a company along with its subsidiaries (no less than 50%).

Types of cosmetic with highest number of patents
According to Mintel, consumers are more fascinated by derma segment to optimize the final outcomes for them. For delivery of concentrated actives in these formulations, encapsulation is the preferred mode of delivery. Recently, there is rise in usage of encapsulated based active ingredients for new facial skincare launches in countries such as South Korea and China. For cosmetic formulations, there is increase in patent filings for encapsulation-based actives where most of the patents are granted in South Korea.

Use of patents for personal care and cosmetic industry
Patent analysis gives predictions about emerging ingredients and technology trends, innovations, and applications to provide early indications of market movements that help companies and brands understand where the next opportunity lies

In cosmetic industry, intellectual property rights are used in the form of trademarks, trade secrets or in the form of patents that comprise of formulations and productions methods. There are various factors such as innovations, quality system, benchmarking and technology transfer that need to be given attentions for sustaining cosmetic industry for longer time.

What’s next?
In recent times, consumers are exploring new beauty trends, products or even technologies which havenopened doors for innovations or experiments in the industry. South Korean company, Amorepacific is having highest number of innovations in cosmetics sector. There are some successful technologies that have proven useful for the consumers like tissue facial masks derived from transdermal patch drug delivery, or use of Michael acceptor to tie up free sulfhydryls of hair proteins to repair damaged hair. Personalized cosmetics are advancing with the use of artificial intelligence and genomics wherein it predicts how your skin will react to particular molecule.

Dr Poonam Mogal
Technical Marketing Manager
9 No. 819/C, Usha Krishna Centre,
13th Cross , Block. Jayanagar, Bangalore-560082

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