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

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Women walk past 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 says its skin creams don’t violate the new interpretation

(Reuters) – The University of Massachusetts and a Christian religious order can sue L’Oreal SA over multiple brands of skin creams, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday, reversing a lower court.

A federal judge in Delaware misinterpreted part of UMass’ skin cream patents when he declared them invalid last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled.

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

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

Carmel is an affiliate of the Teresian Carmelites, a Massachusetts-based religious group that licenses UMass patents to make Easeamine anti-aging face cream. Proceeds from Easeamine’s sales support Carmelite charities, according to the lawsuit.

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

The Federal Circuit revived the patents on Monday after finding that they instead covered a specific amount of adenosine applied to the surface of the skin. The appeals court said its ruling “eliminates an important premise” of the invalidity decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The court also rejected L’Oréal’s request to declare that it had not infringed. L’Oreal argued that UMass acknowledged that the company’s creams do not contain the same amount of adenosine as its patented treatment under the new interpretation.

Additionally, the Federal Circuit gave UMass and Carmel another chance to argue that French company L’Oréal SA should 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 by Susman Godfrey

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

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