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L'Oréal ordered to pay $91M in hair patent infringement case

L'Oréal SA has been ordered to pay a total of $91.3 million in damages after a Delaware jury ruled that the French cosmetics giant infringed upon a patented ingredient for hair care products that was licensed to Olaplex LLC by Liqwd Inc.

The patent in question is for keratin treatment formulations and methods for hair care products, which was filed by Liqwd in May 2014.

The jury's decision on Aug. 12 comes about four months after the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware granted a preliminary injunction against L'Oréal in the suit that was filed in January 2017.

Bloomberg News, which obtained a copy of the jury trial transcript, reported that Olaplex accused L'Oréal of stealing trade secrets during a meeting in California in 2015 when L'Oréal was in talks to buy the startup. In its decision, the jury ruled that L'Oréal misappropriated these trade secrets and that this misappropriation was "willful or malicious."

According to court documents, the jury also ruled that the maker of Lancôme perfumes and Garnier beauty products breached nondisclosure agreements.

The court also ordered L'Oréal to stop making, selling, importing and exporting hair care products that use the patent. L'Oréal has also been asked to recall all infringing products from distributors.

In a statement, L'Oréal said it is "disappointed" and "strongly disagrees" with the verdict.

"We continue to believe that Olaplex's accusations against us are unfounded, therefore, they had no basis for a patent infringement claim against us nor did we misuse sensitive business information," the cosmetics and skincare giant said.

The company maintained that its hair bonding technology was developed independently by L’Oréal Research teams, together with input from its long-standing partnerships with hairstylists. It said it will appeal the decision and noted that it already has ongoing invalidation proceedings before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and the Federal Court of Appeals.

"We expect these future rulings to invalidate both patents at-issue in this case," L'Oréal said.