• Gillette To Spend Millions To Reword Razor Packaging
  • July 21, 2005
  • Law Firm: Reed Smith LLP - Pittsburgh Office
  • The Gillette Co. is facing a price tag of $1.6 million to place stickers over wording on the packaging of its M3 Power razors after a federal court ruled Gillette's word claim at issue was false.

    The ruling is another loss in the ongoing battle launched by Schick Manufacturing Inc. -- which has staked out about 10 percent of the $1.1 billion per year U.S. market in men's razor and blade products -- against Gillette, which maintains a 90 percent share.

    In May, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut issued an injunction against Gillette, concluding that Schick had established a likelihood of success on the merits of some of its challenges to Gillette's advertising of its electric oscillating razor.

    The court concluded that an animated portion of a television commercial showing hair extending and changing angles during shaving was false. However, the court also found that Schick had failed to establish the likely success on Gillette's general claim that its razor causes hair to extend while shaving.

    Recently, Gillette asked the court to clarify whether the injunction applied to the claim on its packaging that the M3 Power razor creates gentle micropulses that stimulate hair "up and away" from the skin. The company already had ceased running the animated commercial.

    The court ruled that its injunction covers the word claim as well as the animation, and that the "up and away" wording is false because it implies the hair changes angle, which the court did not believe to be true.

    A spokesperson for Gillette told AdAge.com that the company will comply with the decision. The company will have to correct the labeling of approximately 5.5 million packages.

    Schick also has won injunctions against the M3 Power advertising in Germany and Australia. The company has lost motions for injunctions in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, but is continuing its litigation against Gillette in those countries.

    In its U.S. case, Schick is seeking damages of $20 million, according to the company's injunction motion. That amount represents the revenue shortfall Schick allegedly suffered in sales of its rival product, the Quattro, after the M3 Power razor was launched. Schick had predicted the Quattro would produce $100 million in sales in its first year.

    Damage awards in false advertising cases rarely amount to more than a few million, Reed Smith's Peter D. Raymond told AdAge.com in an article about the case. However, he noted that most litigation is settled shortly after an injunction is issued. That may not happen in this case because Schick and Gillette have a history of battling each other.

    Why This Matters: Under the Lanham Act, where parties are head-to-head competitors, the advertising of one party that is deemed to be false or misleading can be presumed to have injured the other party. Depending upon the facts and market size, damages can rise into the millions. Time will tell how this case unfolds.