Updated July 10, 2020:

A cosmetic patent attorney is an experienced attorney who can help an inventor properly patent their cosmetic formula. Patenting cosmetics has some complicated aspects to it that are important to understand when starting the process.

Strategies for Patenting Cosmetics

Formulation chemistry is often a big part of patenting cosmetic products. Formulation chemistry refers to the chemistry process of mixing different compounds that serve various functions to get a specific result. Another type of chemistry, called new molecule chemistry is a contrast to formulation chemistry because it seeks patent protection for newly discovered chemical species. Typically, pharmaceutical patents fall under new molecule chemistry.

Usually, cosmetic compounds are formed using various ingredients that are likely already known chemicals. This means that you don't want to formulate your cosmetic or chemical patent application as a form of new molecule chemistry, because the chemicals themselves aren't new, just their uses.

When filing a patent application for formulation chemistry, you're looking to show that your particular combination of chemicals to form a product was not an obvious one and is original. The USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) is looking for originality and innovation in patents.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while forming a new product that you hope to cover with patent protection:

  • Is your use of the ingredients unique from the uses found in other similar patent applications?
  • Does your formula show a valuable combination, meaning that your particular combination of ingredients results in a specific effect?
  • Can you clearly show how your product out performs other similar products using some of the same ingredients toward the same end?

Coming up with clear and strong answers to these questions will strengthen your patent application. If the USPTO rejects your application, but you can answer all of these questions positively, you probably have a good case for patentability.

Challenges Inventors Face

All inventors face challenges when they are trying to gain patent protection for their work, but there are certain struggles specific to each field of invention. For instance, cosmetic inventors face the difficulty of showing details in their application that give enough information to enable someone with knowledge in the field to use or create the invention themselves.

Cosmetic inventors need to be careful when using the trade names for various ingredients in their patent description because the law forbids inventors from claiming their creations using trade names. For example, inventors need to be sure to use the actual scientific chemical name for the ingredients they use. Also, when providing chemical information, you'll want to include examples of other chemicals that would also work with your formula so that the invention is more likely to be found "enabled" by the court.

What Is a Formulation/Composition Patent?

In order to gain a formulation or composition patent, the formula or compound has to meet the following requirements:

  • It must be completely new.
  • It must be non-obvious.
  • It must be useful.
  • It cannot already be patented by another.
  • It cannot already be in common use.

For instance, because using coconut oil in products marketed for skin care is already quite common, and many cosmetic and skin care companies are already marketing and selling products using this ingredient, a facial lotion using coconut oil cannot be patented for the use of that particular oil. Although, if that same facial lotion also uses a new type of plant resin that isn't yet commonly used, it may be patentable. The inventor will still need to show its originality and usefulness, and fulfill the other requirements.

What Are the Benefits of a Patent?

The benefit of obtaining patent protection for your newly invented compound or formula is that you retain the rewards for your work. If you've discovered a new combination of ingredients or a brand new formula for fighting acne, you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor. With a patent, you'll be able to protect your intellectual property and sue anyone who tries to benefit from it without first getting your permission. This protection also allows inventors to hold off their competitors until they're able to market and sell their new idea.

It's important to remember that patent protection only applies in the country that granted you the patent. Gaining international patent protection is a more complicated process that involves the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization).

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