In late October, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) announced that it had decided to open a Section 337 investigation over allegations of potential patent infringement in the consumer hygiene product sector. The products at issue in the investigation are certain shaving cartridges used together with a shaving handle, including shaving cartridges marketed under the Schick Hydro Connect 5 brand. The investigation was petitioned by Gillette, a subsidiary of American consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), and it named Schick and its parent company Edgewell Personal Care (NYSE:EPC) as respondents in the case.
Gillette filed its complaint with the ITC this September in which it asserted a single patent: U.S. Patent No. 9193077, titled Shaving Razor Cartridge Having Connecting Member. Issued in November 2015, it claims a shaving cartridge assembly including a blade assembly having a housing with a guard at the housing’s front, a cap at the housing’s rear and at least one blade between the guard and the cap; the assembly also has a connecting member having a pair of arms extending outwardly from a body forming a pivoting connection with the blade unit. The resulting invention is a blade cartridge providing accurate blade support for optimal shaving performance while the connecting assembly remains concealed.
Gillette practices the technology covered by the ‘077 in its Fusion razor blade, namely in the connecting technology used to connect the shaving cartridge to the Fusion handle. Gillette first introduced the Fusion razor incorporating the technology covered by the ‘077 patent in 2006. Gillette alleges that in May 2017, Schick released two products, the Schick Hydro Connect 5 and the Schick Hydro Connect 5 Sensitive, which are designed to fit specifically on Gillette’s Fusion handle. Gillette notes that Schick had introduced Hydro shaving products back in 2010 and did not have any infringing products previous to this May, so consumers would still have plenty of access to products like the accused Hydro Connect products. Impacts to consumer choice are considered by the ITC prior to instituting a Section 337 investigation.
If the ITC finds in favor of Gillette in this case, it would issue a permanent exclusion order which would exclude the accused Schick Hydro Connect products from entry to the U.S. Within 45 days, the ITC administrative law judge (ALJ) assigned to the case will set a target date for concluding the Section 337 investigation and any remedial orders will become effective within 60 days of their being issued.