L’Oréal must face UMass skin-cream lawsuit, US appeals court says

Women walk by the logo of French cosmetics group L’Oreal in the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, France, February 7, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

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  • Court revives patents, but rejects UMass’ patent interpretation
  • L’Oréal argues its skin creams don’t infringe under new interpretation

(Reuters) – The University of Massachusetts and a Christian religious order can pursue a patent lawsuit against L’Oréal SA over several skin cream brands, a US appeals court said Monday, reversing a lower court.

A Delaware federal judge misconstructed part of UMass’ skin-cream patents when it found them invalid last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said.

The parties and their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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UMass and Carmel Laboratories LLC sued L’Oréal SA and its US subsidiary in Delaware federal court in 2017. The lawsuit said L’Oréal’s RevitaLift moisturizer and unnamed products for Maybelline, Lancôme, and other L’Oréal brands use UMass’ technology for skin creams with the chemical adenosine.

Carmel is a subsidiary of the Teresian Carmelites, a Massachusetts-based religious group that licenses the UMass patents to make Easeamine anti-aging face cream. Proceeds of Easeamine sales support the Carmelites’ charitable works, the lawsuit said.

The Delaware court adopted UMass’ proposed construction of the patents and found they cover a specific concentration of adenosine that reaches the dermal cells below the skin’s outer layer. However, the court later found the patents were too vague based on that interpretation.

The Federal Circuit on Monday revived the patents after finding they instead cover a specific amount of adenosine applied to the skin’s surface. The appeals court said its decision “eliminates an important premise” of the invalidity ruling and sent the case back for more proceedings.

The court also rejected L’Oréal’s request to rule that it did not infringe. L’Oréal argued that UMass conceded the company’s creams do not include the same amount of adenosine as its patented treatment under the new interpretation.

In addition, the Federal Circuit gave UMass and Carmel a new chance to argue that France-based L’Oréal SA should have to face the case in addition to L’Oréal USA Inc.

The case is University of Massachusetts v. L’Oréal SA, US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, No. 21-1969.

For UMass and Carmel: Jeffrey Lamken of MoloLamken; and Tamar Lusztig of Susman Godfrey

For L’Oréal: Eric Dittmann of Paul Hastings; and Katherine Murray of Ellis George Cipollone O’Brien Annaguey

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Blake Brittain

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com


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