Kao sues Henkel over foam hair care infringement

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Henkel, Kao

Cosmetics company Kao is suing Dusseldorf-headquartered Henkel over the sale of its foaming hair care products in Germany and Japan, insisting Henkel is infringing its intellectual property rights.

The lawsuit filed against the German company and its Japanese subsidiary Schwarzkopf & Henkel K.K, requests that Henkel cease sales of its foam type hair colour products in these markets.

Kao developed the technology in 2002 and commercially launched the hair colour products for black hair in July 2007 and for grey hair in October 2008, which the company claims established a ‘foam type’ category in the hair dye market in Japan.

Henkel has been selling its foam type hair colour mousse products in Germany since September 2010, which Kao alleges infringes its German Utility Model.

Schwarzkopf and Henkel have been selling in Japan since September 2010, also. The hair colour products in question are its Fresh Light Foam Type Colour, which Kao alleges infringes its Japanese Patent.

Demand that Henkel ceases sales

In both cases the Tokyo-headquartered firm is seeking injunctions on the sale of these products, with lawsuits filed in Dusseldorf and Tokyo respectively. In the case of Kao’s allegations in Germany, it is also requesting a declaration that Henkel is liable for charges.

Kao's German Utility Model and Japanese Patent relate to "a two agent foam type hair dye in a non-aerosol vessel"​ which Kao states are key intellectual property rights that support its beauty care business.

The company says it values its intellectual property as an extremely important company resource and takes a firm attitude in enforcing its rights.

A spokesperson for Schwarzkopf & Henkel K.K told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com that it has taken note of the announcement by Kao, however, since the complete writs have not been served so far, Henkel understandably prefers not to comment any further on the matter.

"Schwarzkopf & Henkel and Henkel Japan respect differences of opinion and rights to objection. However, Henkel is committed to maintaining a high level of transparency in its operations and in ensuring its product designs are in full accordance with business ethics,"​ explained the spokesperson.

Application and dye performance

Kao’s Beauty Research Centre has been studying hair colouring technology for application and dyeing performance, since it developed its first ever foam-type hair colouring technology using a squeeze foamer; a container that mixes air and liquid to produce foam when dispensed.

Recently the centre upgraded its original foam-structure controlling technology for its hair dyeing agent by utilising a specific surfactant and gels.

The company says that foaming performance and foam stability have been greatly improved, which allows for more spreadable foam with less dripping, leading to easier usability.

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