Thursday, September 5, 2013

Beauty and Patents

While a cosmetic maker by night, I am a research assistant by day. Most of my research is on techy patent cases. I was joking with a coworker that I could make your lip balm and research lip balm patents. Of course I had to search for lip balm patents after that.

First off, my search strategy. Skip this paragraph if you don't care for the nitty gritty details. I used Free Patents Online for my search, since I've been using them for a long time and like their search function. The USPTO has their own patent search tool, and there are many other patent websites out there, as well as paid databases. I searched "lip balm" in the title fields and abstract fields separately. A general search for "lip balm" comes up with over 3000 results, which is far too many to sort through just for fun. A search for lip balm without quotes has almost 5000 hits- not as many as I thought there would be, honestly.

Most of the patents with "lip balm" in the title were design patents, and I didn't look at any of those. Many of the utility patents were about the packaging/casing as well, and so I skipped over those as well.

While I adore chemistry, I didn't want to puzzle out the ingredients some of the patents were discussing. I've listed the ones I find interesting below, but there are definitely more out there.

Botanical butter stick lip balm, Patent 7695727
This one puzzles me. I'm not sure how it's novel- is it the jojoba esters? I have some jojoba esters, but haven't used them in anything yet. I was mostly curious as to what they were like. Using candelilla, carnauba, botanical butters, and liquid oils hardly seems novel. Using a small amount of beeswax in such a recipe doesn't seem too strange either.

Hypoallergenic cosmetics, lip balms and lip sticks, Patent 4793991
This one's a bit older, and kind of interesting. Basically you used single plant origin beeswax, combined with that plant's oil (or an oil that is similar). I know of single plant honey (I see lavender and orange blossom in stores), but never thought about the beeswax.

Compositions and methods for delivery of caffeine, Patent 7560465
Caffeinated lip balm- specifically, dissolved caffeine added to a lip balm base. Given how much lip balm I apply in a day, that could be dangerous. I do use coffee oil in my Mocha Lip Balm, but that probably has minimal caffeine.

Nicotine replacement applique, Patent 7105173
Caffeine, nicotine...I guess you can try to handle all of your addictions with a little lip balm. I'm fairly certain this would be regulated as a drug, though I'm not exactly sure in which way- it has a drug in it, and the drug itself is an active ingredient in a cosmetic. Maybe the inventor of this patent and the caffeine patent should meet up and try to make one new super patent.

Land mine, Patent 5423266
So this patent has nothing to do with lip balms, but it came back in my search results for "lip balm" in the abstract. Because this land mine is about the size of a lip balm. Kind of scary and sad.

My job is to pull patents and to look for ones that meet the attorneys' specifications. I do not interpret patents, so these are just my musings. Patent litigation is expensive, so please do not consider these as a jumping off point for your products.

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