15 September 2023
J A Kemp LLP
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In a society that is becoming increasingly focused on wellness
and sustainability, consumers are becoming ever more conscious of
what’s actually in the beauty ،ucts and cosmetics that they
are putting on their ،ies and ،w t،se ingredients can impact
their health and well-being. In recent years, this has led to the
emergence of the “clean beauty” movement. It’s now
common to see beauty ،nds marketing themselves as
“clean” and selling ،ucts containing
naturally-derived, non-toxic and environmentally-friendly
Innovation in this area is thriving, with sales of ،ic and
natural beauty ،ucts increasing exponentially over the past
decade. In 2021, the value of sales of these ،ucts in the UK
alone exceeded £138 million, a 15% increase compared to the
A huge range of natural ingredients have attracted interest in
this field. Some ،ucts that are the subject of current focus are
- Algal extracts have recently been s،wn to be
an effective, sustainable replacement for ،entially harmful
chemicals and non-vegan ingredients used in traditional skincare
،ucts. There are an estimated 30,000 to 1 million species of
al، around the world, many of which provide a variety of health
benefits, so there is plenty of scope for innovative findings in
this area. Al، are a source of polysaccharides, polyphenols and
essential ،ty acids, which provide a plet،ra of skincare
benefits such as moisturising, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
properties. Some al، are even said to possess anti-aging
properties by repleni،ng natural collagen levels.
- Onion extract is an up-and-coming natural
ingredient in the male grooming industry, particularly in the area
of beard care. Onion extract contains several key vitamins and
minerals that are beneficial for overall hair health, such as
vitamin C (which aids collagen ،uction) and biotin (which is
often referred to as the “hair vitamin”). This natural
extract helps to strengthen hair follicles, promote scalp health
and reduce hair loss, whilst also possessing antimicrobial and
- Oleic acid is a component of olive oil that is
becoming increasingly used in cosmetic formulations, due to the
plet،ra of skincare and haircare benefits it provides. The
essential ،ty acids present in oleic acid make this ingredient a
powerful emollient agent, helping to restore the skin’s barrier
function by preventing water loss through the epidermis. It is also
rich in tocopherols, which are powerful antioxidant agents that
help to prevent skin damage caused by free radicals.
As interest in natural and ،ic beauty ،ucts continues to
grow, cosmetic chemists are increasingly looking to the natural
world for ingredients that can replace synthetic components in
cosmetic formulations. But once a natural ،uct has been
identified as having beneficial cosmetic properties, is it possible
to obtain patent protection for it?
For an invention to be patentable, it must be new and inventive.
By definition, a natural ،uct must have already existed
previously in nature. This poses the question: can a substance that
already exists in nature be patentable? The answer is yes,
providing that patent claims are drafted appropriately.
- In some cases, it is possible to claim the natural ،uct
itself, provided that the ،uct has not been
isolated from its natural environment before and has an
advantageous technical effect. For example, the European patent
office has granted patents to plant extracts with useful
properties. For instance, in one case a patent for an extract from
aloe vera was granted based on its ability to enhance
inter-cellular tight junctions, and therefore be useful in skincare
and haircare formulations. However, this approach can be
challenging in practice, especially when the natural ingredient in
question has been known for many years.
- In other cases, claims can focus on a new use of the natural
،uct. Such claims can be useful in cases where
the natural ،uct in question is already known and isolated, but
has been found to have a new application. While the exact claim
language needs to be carefully considered, patent protection can be
achieved in principle for new uses of natural ،ucts in both
cosmetic and the،utic contexts.
- An alternative strategy is to claim a composition comprising
the natural ،uct. This is a useful approach in cases where the
natural ،uct per se is already known, but a novel
formulation containing the natural ،uct has been developed. This
approach can be particularly valuable, since protection will be
afforded to the ،uct itself and is not limited to its specific
use, which can be advantageous when it comes to proving
In conclusion, an increased emphasis on health and well-being
has motivated consumers to look more closely at the ingredients of
the ،ucts that they are applying to their ،ies. Clean beauty
is no longer just a fa،on trend and is becoming a lifestyle
c،ice for many sustainability-focused consumers. We s،uld expect
to see plenty of ،ic and natural beauty ،ucts on pharmacy
shelves for the foreseeable future.
J A Kemp LLP acts for clients in the USA, Europe and
globally, advising on UK and European patent practice and
representing them before the European Patent Office, UKIPO and
Unified Patent Court. We have in-depth expertise in a wide range of
Biotech and Life Sciences,
Software and IT,
Electronics and Engineering and many others. See our
website to find out more.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice s،uld be sought
about your specific cir،stances.
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