Why you do not need to patent your cosmetic formulation

Getting a formulation patent is a gratifying experience for a cosmetic chemist. You get to see your name listed in the official rolls of the US patent office and you get to add it to your resume or CV. It’s great. It’s especially great if the company you are working for pays all the required legal fees. But if you are a cosmetic entrepreneur, getting a patent is probably a waste of your time and money. Here are three reasons that a small cosmetics business should skip getting a patent.

Patents don’t prevent copycats

One of the main reasons people think to get a patent is so they can prevent their competition from copying their formulas. Well, the truth is in the cosmetic industry, patents do not have this effect. It is really a simple matter for a cosmetic chemist to start from an existing formula and recreate something that works just as well. If you have a patent, it’s an even easier task. Substituting out one ingredient for another is not hard. Making something that does not violate the patent but works just as well is easy.

While you might believe your formulation is completely unique and new to the world, it most likely isn’t. Or at least, it isn’t so different that a consumer could tell much of a difference. Consumers are not good at discerning subtle differences between similar formulas.

Patents do not provide much benefit

Patents on cosmetic formulas do not provide the kinds of benefits that patents in other industries might provide. Mostly, the benefit is limited to making a patent claim like “patented formula” or “unique formula”. Are these claims really going to make or break your cosmetic product? If so, you’re product is probably doomed anyway.

Better ways to spend your money

Getting a patent on a cosmetic product can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. It can take a long time and at the end of the process it doesn’t offer you much protection from the competition. There are much better ways you can spend that money including…
1. Marketing efforts
2. Advertising
3. PR events
4. Packaging
5. Other brand building efforts

While cosmetic formulations are what make cosmetics work, it is very difficult to stand out through your formulation alone. There are plenty of nicely formulated products out there that never get any sales because they fail in their branding and marketing. If you have thousands of extra cash laying around, don’t spend it on patenting your formulation. Spend it on building your brand.

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