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Korean cosmetics giants lock horns in second round of patent battle

AmorePacific, LG engaged in suits over ‘cushion compact’

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Published : 2014-03-24 21:59
Updated : 2014-03-24 21:59

This summer may turn out to be tougher than usual for AmorePacific, the country’s No. 1 cosmetics maker, which has locked horns with rival LG Household & Care over the patent of its signature foundation compact.

AmorePacific lost an initial patent suit against LG in 2013 when the Supreme Court revoked the company’s patent on the composition of the foundation fluid.

Currently, AmorePacific is engaged in two other court battles with LG over the patent for its smooth puff applicator as well as the composition and content of the foundation.
AmorePacific Iope’s Air Cushion XP
LG Household & Health Care’s Cushion Screen Cell

The bigger problem is that since AmorePacific lost the case, dozens of copycat products have flooded the cosmetics industry, and these are now expected to cannibalize the market both at home and abroad, watchers say.

According to market insiders, more than 20 kinds of so-called cushion sunscreen-foundation compacts have been released since AmorePacific lost the patent.

The copycat compacts might be armed with different features ― ranging from pearl extracts to highlighting functions ― but they all have either a “puff applicator with a smooth surface” or “liquid absorbed in a sponge,” which are the key features of AmorePacific’s “Air Cushion” product released under its Iope brand in 2008.

AmorePacific has reportedly sold more than 12 million cushion compacts in Korea and 1.3 million overseas in 2013.

Cushion compacts have become increasingly popular because they are easier to apply and more solid than other products, cosmetics makers say.

“We are still in the middle of the trial and there isn’t much we can talk about,” said Shin Min-ho, a PR representative of AmorePacific.

LG, on the other hand, has released cushion products through its O Hui, The Face Shop and Sum37 brands. The company, which has a strong foothold in the Southeast Asian market, including more than 1,400 Face Shop stores overseas, is expected to market the cushion compact aggressively in the region.

In response, AmorePacific is planning to develop technology to replace ruby cell materials for its puff applicators, which are now imported from Japan.

It also joined up with Neiman Marcus department store in New York to give away 50,000 samples of its cushion foundation.

A company insider said, “People can copy what our products look like, but they cannot copy our details.”

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)

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