US Start-Up Sues L’Oréal for Patent Infringement

Olaplex LLC is alleging that L’Oréal USA- the U.S. arm of the French owned cosmetics giant has copied its award-winning hair product and marketing strategy in relation to the product. It has filed a complaint for patent infringement and false advertising at the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Olaplex manufactures a range of products called ‘bond builders’- these products protect the hair during bleach treatments. The product at the centre of this dispute was launched in 2014. Typically the process of chemically bleaching hair leaves hair feeling coarse and fragile. Olaplex’s three-step system that is used during the process of chemically bleaching protects the hair and maintains a healthy undamaged appearance. This protection is achieved as a result of the product containing an active chemical called “bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate”. Olpalex secures patents for this chemical to be used in its product.

In the court documents Olaplex claims that its product is the “first successful and effective product in the hair bonding market” and that “it is the world leader in that market”.

The court documents reveal that in early 2015, L’Oréal attempted to recruit Olaplex’s key employees, who it believed were behind the development of the contentious product. Thereafter L’Oréal approached Olaplex with a view to buying the company.

The lawsuit alleges that during these takeover discussions, L’Oréal had access to its confidential information which included proprietary technology relating to Olaplex’s technology and chemistry behind its products, social media marketing strategy and one of its unpublished patent applications. By September 2015, the possibility of a takeover had fallen through. Olaplex alleges that upon receipt of the confidential information “L’Oréal ceased pursuing an acquisition of Olaplex, and instead wilfully took and copied Olaplex’s technology without authorisation to create three slavish ‘me too’ ‘knock-offs’”.

Olaplex alleges that as a result of being armed with the above L’Oréal “copied the revolutionary three-step Olaplex system (which includes the patented technology at issue) to protect hair during professional bleaching treatments”. Olaplex further alleges that L’Oréal’s marketing bears a strong resemblance to that of Olaplex’s.

L’Oréal commented “We strongly oppose the merit of these claims and the validity of the patent and L’Oréal USA will defend this position vigorously”.

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