By Shin Hee Lee* and Anthony D. Sabatelli** --
The cosmeceutical industry is ever more competitive and continues to grow with a myriad of new cosmeceutical products entering the market every day. Well-established and new companies are busily adapting to new trends created by people's changing tastes. The total revenue of the U.S. cosmeceutical industry has only been increasing since 2009, marking $62.46 billion in 2016. While this revenue comes from a number of cosmeceutical product categories, skin care has always been the most profitable category, covering 36% of the global market. In this article, we discuss some of the recent growth and trends in skin care cosmeceutical patents.
It is often unknown that the 182 most recognized beauty brands in the world are actually owned by seven major cosmeceutical companies: L'Oréal, Johnson and Johnson, Shiseido, Estée Lauder Companies, Unilever, Coty, and Procter & Gamble. L'Oréal umbrellas the most brands with a total of 39 prevalent companies in an array of beauty stores. These store brands are very well-known, including Kiehl's, Lancôme, The Body Shop, Urban Decay, and Maybelline. On the other hand, the Estée Lauder Companies own internationally recognized luxury brands such as Clinique, Bobbi Brown, MAC, Jo Malone, Lab Series, and Glamglow. These brands highly occupy the shelves in Sephora and other popular beauty vendors. The plethora of products and the explosion of marketing venues suggests how competitive it can be for new cosmeceutical companies to succeed in the market.
To be competitive in the cosmeceutical industry, a company, whether new, rising or established, should focus on establishing solid intellectual property (IP) rights. IP rights protect and support elements that help companies distinguish their products from rival companies. Furthermore, the number of patents can be a powerful marketing tool, especially when touting the "patented" technology used to develop the product.
Because of the significance of IP rights in the cosmeceutical industry, there is currently an overwhelming number of cosmeceutical patents. Skin care has the leading number of patents, correlating to its enormous global sales (projected to reach $130 billion by 2019).
Anti-aging has been the most popular category within skin care, attributed to the high demand of products promoting youthful looks that defy a consumer's biological age. The majority of anti-aging patents relate to inventions based on unique compositions of known or novel ingredients. An assortment of vitamins like retinol (made from vitamin A), vitamin C, coenzyme Q-10, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) have traditionally been touted to have anti-aging efficacies. However, with the recent beauty trend of "clean cosmeceuticals," some patentees have pointed at the toxicity of some complementary additives in these vitamins and have filed patents for supposedly more natural plant-based components. Some anti-aging products contain peptides instead of vitamins as their main component. A recent study has shown that defensins, a group of antimicrobial peptides that activate stem cells to produce new skin, provide incredible anti-aging effects. Many reporters have been labeling defensins as "a game changer," and "the newest anti-aging weapon." Patents on anti-aging formulations will likely surface in the near future.
Another area of intense patent activity relates to cosmetic devices. Portable home skin care devices for measuring and improving skin conditions have been increasingly patented and commercialized. One of the pioneers that popularized hand-held devices was a company named Clarisonic (or Pacific Biosciences Laboratories), which owns 40 patents on their devices. Clarisonic's iconic cleansing tool is a mechanically rotating face brush that oscillates back and forth over the skin to thoroughly remove any oil, debris, makeup and environmental pollutants. Recently, Neutrogena has introduced small portable stick that treats acne using phototherapy. Depending on the light color, the stick can treat different types of skin problems. One futuristic skin care device on the rise is a mirror with built-in digital sensors that detect and analyze the skin's moisture, oiliness, and redness. Devices that were only accessible at a dermatologist's office are increasingly becoming home-friendly. We expect the skin care device patents continue to increase in the coming years, especially the design patents.
Shown below are two tables summarizing some of the patent trends for cosmetics and recent devices.
* Shin Hee Lee is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Chemistry Department at Yale University. She is currently associated with the Yale Energy Sciences Institute, where she specializes in organic synthesis of novel light-harvesting dye molecules for solar cells. Prior to attending Yale, Shin Hee obtained her B.S. in Chemistry with High Honors at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, during which she published patents and papers on developing synthetic methodologies for fluorinated small molecules.
** Dr. Sabatelli is a Partner with Dilworth IP