Olaplex launched it collection of innovative hair repair products in 2014. The key technology behind Olaplex products repairs broken disulfide bonds within hair. So, Olaplex has become a go-to tool for stylists working to repair chemical, thermal, and mechanical damage, and especially as a step in coloring (as disulfide bonds are commonly broken in the bleach phase of the coloring process).
Rather than addressing hair damage with a silicone or protein treatment, Olaplex relies on a patented chemical known as bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate. The company also holds patents for alternate forms of dimaleate, as the Financial Times reports.
In a suit filed with United States District Court for the Central District of California, the company alleges that L’Oréal siphoned off people and knowledge, enabling L’Oréal to replicate the hair repair process. In its suit, Olaplex explains that L’Oréal “copied the revolutionary three-step Olaplex system (which includes the patented technology at issue) to protect hair during professional bleaching treatments.”
Media reports indicate that L’Oréal may have hired key people from the Olaplex team. And they suggest that as a distributor of Olaplex, through its Salon Centric division, L’Oréal may have taken liberties with data and marking insights pertaining to the product collection. There is also speculation that while L’Oréal and Olaplex were in acquisition talks, proprietary tech and formulation information changed hands.
The false advertising portion of the suit alleges that “the marketing imagery produced by L’Oréal bears a strong resemblance to the marketing materials created by Olaplex,” as the Financial Times and several media outlets have noted.
Just this month, the company brought its new product L’Oréal Professional Smartbond to market.
And so far a the law suit is concerned, L’Oréal is standing firm. The company concedes no violation at this point, and in fact doesn’t even recognize the Olaplex patent. “We strongly oppose the merit of these claims and the validity of the patent and L’Oréal USA will defend this position vigorously,” as a company spokesperson has told the press.