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The Business of Lip Balm – Patent Insights

The Business of Lip  Balm – Patent Insights

For many countries January marks the coldest month of the calendar year. These cold temperatures can be tough on people’s skin; with our skin moisture dropping and leading to cases of dryness and inflammation.

There are a variety of products available to safeguard against the negative effects of cold weather on the skin, with many people seeking to protect their lips from dryness and cracking using lip balms.

Using patent data as our guide, we investigate the current developmental trends in the field of lip balms, and if this can give an insight into its future.

Read on, or download the full article here.

A Brief History of Lip Balm

Humans have been using lip moisturising techniques as far back as 40BC, with Egyptians being noted as using a mixture of beeswax, olive oil and animal fat to provide care to dry or chapped lips.

Homemade remedies have prevailed ever since, with households in the 1800’s even being advised to utilise their earwax to obtain healthy, moisturised lips. Luckily technology has moved forward, and today lip balms are primarily based off of a variety of naturally obtained waxes.

The invention of lip balms as we know them today, in the form of a solid stick, can be accredited to Dr Charles Brown Fleet in the early 1800’s. His product, which was wrapped in tin foil rather than a tube, would go on to be named ChapStick and become one of the most synonymous brands within the industry. This business venture was not an instant success however, and Dr Fleet sold the rights to John Morton in 1912 for $5 due to poor initial sales.

Assessing the Field

For a broad patent analysis, we can utilise the classification “A61Q19/001 Preparations for the care of the lips”.

Fig.1, Earliest Priority Year vs Number of Patent Families for A61Q19/001.

As shown in Fig.1, this appear to be a relatively small technology area, with the classification containing approximately 1500 patent families.

This graph highlights a sharp increase in priority filings within this classification, with numbers rising from roughly 20 in 2014 to almost 200 in 2018, indicating that lip care could be a key growth area for its size. The trajectory of this growth may have been affected by Covid-19 and may take a few years before we see a more stable indication of its development.

Global Reach

Fig.2, Patents by Publication Country.

Fig.2 highlights the most frequent publication countries for this technology.

As shown, China holds a significant stake in this field, with a larger range of patents than any other country, while the US holds the second highest number of patents. These two countries are notably the global leaders in industrial output.

The Business of Lip Balm

The key assignees holding patents within this technology are displayed within Fig.3 below.

Fig.3, Assignees vs Number of Patent Families.

The main player within this field by some margin is L’Oréal; the world’s largest cosmetics company.

Rounding out the top 3 is skin care company Beiersdorf, owner of Nivea, and chemical company BASF. These companies are based in France and Germany; countries which are respectively the world’s first and seventh largest exporters of beauty, cosmetics, and skincare products.

A significant number of patents within this technology were published in China, as noted in Fig.2, and this is reflected with 6 of the top 20 key players being China based companies.

Other notable companies acting in this field include Procter & Gamble and The Estee Lauder Companies Management.

Fig.4, Publication Year vs Assignee

Through Fig.4’s bubble chart we can observe the longevity to which these companies have had an interest in the field of lip protection, and who has been most active in the previous 20 years.

L’Oréal, noted in Fig.3 as the main player, have been a constant presence in this area over this period, with significantly more publications per year to the closest rival. Meanwhile BASF, the second largest player, can be seen to have reduced their attention in recent years, as have cosmetics giants Estee Lauder.

There are a number of companies entering the field within this time frame; notably Mary Kay, Avon and GlaxoSmithKline, all with a consistent but small number of annual publications.

We can also analyse the key concepts utilised within the patents from these core assignees, identifying where these companies stand within the developmental field, as per Fig.5 below.

Fig.5, Assignees vs Patent Concepts.

L’Oréal, the largest cosmetics company, and most active player in this field, have strong holdings in all concept areas asides from Vitamin E usage. This seems to be an area not explored by most key assignees, with Dalian Zhongzhuoxin Technology Service having the highest interest of the eight key companies currently exploring this technology route.

Jojoba oil and Vitamin E could be considered areas of key development going forward, with only half of the key players currently exploring these concepts.

All key assignees appear to utilise beeswax as a wax portion of their lip balms. Other waxes are captured within this data, with carnauba wax the next most frequent and candelilla wax being the least used of the options highlighted within the chart.

Key Development Areas

Finally, we can try identifying the key development areas for this field by analysing the IPC classifications and key concepts associated with the data set of patents.

Fig.6, IPC vs Earliest Priority Year

For most classifications there is minimal variation over the 20-year analysis period, with a common increase occurring in line with the rise in publications from 2016. This may be due to the size of the technology area; and if the field continues to grow, we could expect to see more variation from a wider patent base.

There are a variety of newly utilised classifications over this period. The recent introduction of “A61K8/9789 Magnoliopisda” and “A61K8/9794 Liliopsida”, may reflect a shift in the technology area towards the use of flowering plants, while “A61K8/63 Steroids; Derivatives thereof” may also be of future interest.

As identified from Fig.5, Vitamin E could be considered a potential growth area, something that is reflected by the emerging use of “A61K8/67 Vitamins”, one of three classifications that finds new, consistent use from 2015, in line with the increase in priority filings.

Patents of Interest

Away from the information provided by these charts, we can manually filter the data set in order to identify other potential trends and patents of possible interest.

One key function not highlighted within the charts is UV filter lip balms, which act to protect the skin from solar activity. This technology has been on the market for a while, with over 10% of the data set claiming UV protection or SPF. An example being WO2017074895A1; a lip protectant that comprises “at least one UVA sunscreen and/or at least one UVB sunscreen.”

Mirroring the popularity of milks in general cosmetics, lip balms have seen a similar uptake in incorporating a variety of types of milk into their compositions. There are a range of benefits to utilising milk in skin care; from the exfoliating properties of lactic acid to the array of vitamins they contain, with vitamins being a previously identified key growth area. Maintaining a small but frequent inclusion in the data set from 2003 onwards, compositions claiming the inclusion of a milk now account for roughly 5% of these results. One such example being CN108969462A, which relates to a lip balm containing 30 parts by weight of goat milk.

A recent development in the field is the emergence of cannabis infused lip balms, their rise in popularity coinciding with the US’s relaxation of its marijuana laws. This is truly an emerging technology; the inclusion of cannabis or cannabinoids present in the claims of only 1.5% of this data set, with the earliest priority date being 2013.

US10639260B1 is one such an example, relating to a lip balm composition containing “petroleum jelly, camphor, menthol, phenol, beeswax, and cannabis”, where the cannabis may have a THC concentration between 15 and 30%.


Although a relatively small technology area, it is apparent that this could be considered a growing field, specifically if it continues its pre-Covid trajectory.
There are a number of “major corporations” acting as key players, however asides from L’Oréal there is no other company with a large hold on this market. There is also significant interest from China, and this is replicated in the amount of China based companies highlighted in the key assignee charts.

In terms of the future, it is apparent there has not been significant variation in the field up to this point, however that seems to be changing with the emergence of utilising flowering plants, steroids and vitamin E. As the technology area continues to grow, we could expect to see more variation, with cannabis infused lip balms an example of a recent change in the market that could have greater influence as time progresses.

Article by Daniel Di Francesco, IP Manager at Patent Seekers. He is an expert in undertaking FTO, Patentability and Invalidity searches, covering all types of subject matter with specialism in the chemical field.

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Is Fashion Cyclical?

Everyone’s heard the phrase “fashion is cyclical” but how much truth is there in this statement? In the run-up to 2022 Fashion Weeks in New York (11-16 Feb), London (18-22 Feb), Milan (22-28 Feb) and Paris (28 Feb – 8 Mar) we analyse the patent data to see if it translates over to intellectual property? And, by utilising patent data, we set about finding out “Is Fashion Cyclical”.

The theory

A fashion trend is typically when a style of clothing, type of fabric or colour scheme sees a rise in popularity, suddenly finding itself in the spotlight and featuring in the wardrobes of style icons everywhere. Over the years plenty of these trends have come and gone; see for example flared trousers, double denim, the mini skirt… there’s plenty of options to choose from.

And yet, no matter how embarrassing some of these may seem in hindsight, a lot of fashion fads find a resurgence in popularity after a period out of the public consciousness.

The idea of a Trend Cycle itself is nothing new and can be applied to everything from music, television and books to the broader concept of art itself.
There is a basic theory that suggests trends have a 20-year lifespan; the time it takes for something popular to lose public interest, before reaching a high level of popularity once again.

As is also known to people within the world of intellectual property; in most countries a granted patent has an enforceable term of 20 years.

By identifying and evaluating two fashion trends, we intended to see if this matching 20-year lifespan is purely coincidental, or if a trend cycle can be identified within the patent data.

Trend One: Shoulder Pads

The first trend we decided to look into is the 80’s staple, the shoulder pad.

Figure 1, below, shows the filing history of shoulder pads related patents from 1980 to 2020. This chart was generated by analysis of the CPC classification A41D27/26: Shoulder-pads; Hip-pads; Bustles. The special rules of this classification state that it includes only shaping pads, not protection pads; making it a good match for this trend.

Figure 1: Earliest Priority Year vs Number of Patent Families

The data set contains a relatively small number annual filings, indicating that this doesn’t seem to be a particularly technologically innovative area.
The filings appear to follow a pattern, with a small peak witnessed towards the end of the 1980’s, before dipping slightly to rise to a defined peak in 2001. This peak in filings remains at a near consistent high until 2007, after which filings appear to decline once more.

Viewing this data through the lens of the 20-year Trend Cycle, we can see a near perfect symmetry.
Taking 2017 to be the low point that marks the middle of a cycle, we can look back at the previous 20 years, whilst also making a prediction for the future.

Looking back half a cycle to 2007, we can see this year is marked by a significant peak in filings, signifying the end point of the near constant high level of filings starting in 2001. Following the Trend Cycle to its beginning we would expect to see 2007 as the corresponding dip in filings; this is not the case, however the nearby low of 1991 may be able to be seen as the partner to 2017’s lull in filings, making this a 26 rather than 20-year cycle.

Based on this apparent cycle, we could expect to see shoulder pads making their inevitable comeback around 2027.

Trend Two: Bejewelling

From rhinestones to diamonds, on trousers or jackets, the second trend we chose to analyse is the versatile treatment of fabrics with jewelled materials.

Figure 2, below, shows the filing history of the fixation of particulate material to fabrics from 1980 to 2020. This chart was generated by analysis of the CPC classification D06Q1/10, which relates to decorating textiles by fixation of particulate matter.

Figure 2: Earliest Priority Year vs Number of Patent Families

These filings also appear to follow a cyclical pattern, although prior to 2000 the number of filings appears nearly insignificant to contribute to analysis.

Working in a similar manner as for shoulder pads, we can attempt to view these results in the terms of the 20-year Trend Cycle.
2016 stands out as the defining peak, containing around twice as many filings as any other year. Following backwards 10 years to 2006 we can see that this year does represent a dip in the near continual growth the filings had seen previously, if only a minor one. This could be due to the consistently minimal number of applications prior to 2000, which doesn’t allow for a defined analysis of any trends before this point.

Assuming this perceived dip in 2006 is true, we should therefore be able to assume the current decline in filings should continue until 2026. Which means that, unfortunately for fans of rhinestones, we may not expect this trend to surface again until 2036.


Fashion is forever moving forward, with recent years seeing the industry take a more active role in seeking environmental solutions.
How much of what the industry produces is patented, or even could be, is an interesting question that may pose no definitive answer. However, within this short analysis, we have attempted to highlight areas of the fashion industry that can be clearly seen within intellectual property.

Both shoulder pads and the fixing of particulate matter on fabrics appear to show cycles in the number of yearly filings they see. These peaks and troughs may look inconspicuous, however when viewed in light of the 20-year Trend Cycle, a clear pattern does start to emerge.

However, this apparent cycle may also be related to the patent cliff; where following a patents expiry the innovation enters the public domain. In relation to fashion, this may be a time when it becomes assessable for the public to adopt a fashion that was previously protected by its patents, leading to the increase in popularity that could then see another wave of patent applications in this particular area, capitalising on the popularity.

In conclusion it is clear to see that the highlighted fashion styles undergo oscillations in the amount of annual filings, yet it is difficult to be certain if this relates directly to the trend lifecycle itself, or another factor such as the patent cliff. Based on the observed data however, we can always keep an eye on 2027 to watch for the return of a new wave of shoulder pad inventions and hopefully find our answer!

Article by Daniel Di Francesco, a Senior Patent Analyst at Patent Seekers. He is an expert in undertaking FTO, Patentability and Invalidity searches, covering all types of subject matter with specialism in the chemical field.


If you enjoy our content here, you’ll love the stuff we share on LinkedIn, follow us now. 

Patent Seekers are experts in providing Patentability, Freedom To Operate (FTO), Patent Busting, State of the Art, Patent Landscape and Mapping searches. Need help in deciding which search you need? Check out our article on selecting the correct patent search!

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