Gillette, the world’s largest maker of razors, is suing start-up rival Dollar Shave Club over alleged use of its patented technology, amid a growing battle to win the burgeoning US online subscription market for shaving.
Procter & Gamble, Gillette’s owner, said on Thursday that the lawsuit accuses Dollar Shave Club of violating its intellectual property, due to the “unauthorised use of patented technology, which is prohibited by law, and is intended to protect Gillette’s significant investment in razor technology”.
P&G is seeking damages and an injunction against Dollar Shave Club from selling any products that infringe on its patented technology, it said.
Gillette has dominated the razor market for decades, with Edgewell Personal Care’s Schick brand trailing a distant second.* Both compete to introduce technologies to achieve smoother and closer shaves aimed at winning more sales at higher prices.
However, since 2009 Gillette’s market share has slipped 4.3 percentage points to 68.2 per cent in the US, according to Euromonitor data.
While it has been a leader in razor technology, it failed to move quickly with “shave clubs”, an online subscription model delivering razors and accessories to your door.
California-based Dollar Shave Club took the lead and part of its success has been down to offering simpler and cheaper razors as well as its tongue-in-cheek advertising, which has gone viral on social media.
The model has spawned a number of copycats including Harry’s Razor Blades. P&G had been selling razors online at sites such as Amazon, but it only launched its own “shave club” site this summer.
As of September, Gillette had 21 per cent of the online shaving market compared to Dollar Shave Club’s 54 per cent, according to Slice, which tracks online shopping. However, online sales are still a fraction of overall retail sales.
Dollar Shave Club said that it was looking into the allegations but declined to comment further.
Deborah Majoras, chief legal officer at P&G, said: “Our patents help protect the many technical advancements we’ve made through the years — and when it becomes necessary, we take action to protect these important assets.”
* This article has been amended to make clear that Schik is owned by Edgewell Personal Care
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