A vitamin-C serum that reportedly smells like hot dog water is the subject of a lawsuit involving beauty giant L’Oréal and cult-favorite Drunk Elephant.
The L’Oréal-owned brand Skinceuticals’ CE Ferulic has long been the gold standard of serums, named Allure’s “Best of Beauty” winner three times. This year, however, CE Ferulic was ousted by a newcomer, Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma. Now, L’Oréal is claiming that C-Firma ripped off its formula, according to Vox.
L’Oréal, the multinational beauty conglomerate that owns the Skinceuticals brand, is suing an indie competitor, alleging patent infringement. The product in question is Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma serum, which has been widely hailed by skincare fans and publications as a cheaper alternative to Skinceuticals’ cult-favorite vitamin C serum. Vitamin C serums can theoretically even out skin tone and prevent sun damage and wrinkles.
To avoid being “duped,” or copied, many cosmetics companies avoid filing patents, which would require disclosing the exact formulation of their products, leaving them susceptible to copycats. L’Oréal is an exception and does hold a patent on CE Ferulic.
“One of the trade-offs of filing a patent is that the method for creating the product must be revealed. Many other brands have based their formulas on the information contained in the formula,” says a cosmetic chemist with experience formulating products containing vitamin C, who asked to be anonymous in order to comment on this case. “Some are apparent outright copies, whereas some brands will try to circumvent the patent by changing the solvent or other properties of the formula, like pH.”
L’Oréal hopes the patent will give them an advantage in court.
A spokesperson for L’Oréal USA said in a statement to Vox: “We believe that the scientific inventions which make our products so innovative are a strategic and competitive advantage and we are committed to protecting our valuable intellectual property.”
But the lawsuit also indicates that we should all grab our C-Firma while the getting’s good, since L’Oréal’s lawsuit basically confirms it’s a spot-on dupe.
Recently, Drunk Elephant has become one of the hottest tickets in cosmetics. Forbes reports the brand has received $25 million in investments; among those investors is fashion blogger extraordinaire, Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine. The company is expected to earn $100 million in sales this year.
CE Ferulic retails for $166 an ounce, by the way, while C-Firma will set you back $80 an ounce, so not exactly pocket change.