Gillette Co. said it filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against razor rival Schick-Wilkinson Sword in federal court, asking a judge to stop the forthcoming launch of Schick's four-bladed men's razor.
Gillette had previously filed a complaint alleging that Schick, a unit of St. Louis, MO, U.S.-based Energizer Holdings Inc., violated a patent on a means of aligning blades in a multi-blade cartridge. That complaint also sought to prevent the sale of the new Schick razor, dubbed Quattro, but the motion would let Gillette bring its case to a judge before Quattro's launch, which is expected within weeks.
"We feel that Schick Quattro is such a clear case of patent infringement that a preliminary injunction is an appropriate action," Gillette spokesman Eric Kraus said.
An Energizer spokeswoman said she wasn't immediately aware if the company's lawyers had received a copy of the motion. She said Energizer wouldn't comment beyond a statement made 2 weeks ago after the original complaint in the suit was filed. Then, Energizer said it "always respected the valid intellectual property rights of third parties," but that it had "valid defenses" to Gillette's claims and would launch Quattro as planned.
Gillette, which makes Mach3 and Venus razors, is the runaway market share leader in the U.S., outselling Schick five to one. "Energizer's infringement threatens Gillette with irreparable injury in the marketplace and has already damaged Gillette's hard won reputation," Gillette says.
Particularly galling to Gillette are Schick's claims that Quattro offers the "closest, smoothest shave ever." For decades, Gillette has billed itself as the technological leader -- a point that even rivals have conceded. But "it is beyond dispute that Schick turned to Gillette's progressive geometry to achieve Quattro's claimed performance," the papers say.
"Progressive geometry" -- the notion that successive blades of a multi-blade razor are positioned closer to the face -- is at the heart of the suit. Gillette says that this technology is covered by a patent it received in 2001. That patent describes a three-bladed cartridge with the first blade recessed from the cartridge's face by not more than 0.2 millimeters, the second blade even with the face, and the third protruding by not more than 0.2 millimeters.
In the papers filed, a Gillette scientist said the company examined 10 Quattro cartridges with a "Zeiss light section microscope" and determined that the first and last blade recessed and protruded by not more than 0.2 millimeters, and the middle two blades were both essentially even with the cartridge face.
Gillette says that since three of the Quattro's four blades violate its patent, the addition of the fourth blade doesn't make the infringement go away. Patent law experts say Gillette is likely correct that a fourth blade wouldn't forestall infringement, but they say that Schick has other avenues, such as arguing that the idea of putting blades closer to the face to achieve a closer shave is so obvious as to not have been patentable in the first place.
The motion, like the original complaint, scatters frequent barbs at Schick, at one point saying that Schick "has been unable to generate commercial products on a par with Gillette's and has instead consistently resorted to copying Gillette's technical innovations." (Reuters)
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