A Century of Patents: From Peanut to Polymers

During the century of publishing what is today Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine, cosmetics and ingredients evolved from relatively simple to sophisticated, complex compositions. A good overview of the changes in the cosmetic industry over the decades appeared in the April, 1982, 75th Anniversary issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine. The evolution of the industry, however, also is reflected by the type of patent art cited in articles appearing in the magazine and cosmetic literature. Initially, the cosmetic literature mostly cited non-U.S. patents. In the course of the century, the total number of U.S. patents issued in all categories has grown from less than a million to more than 7 million (see Patents and Trademarks Span the Century). This article will focus primarily on selected U.S. patents cited in articles appearing in this magazine.

In March 1906, when this magazine was first published under its original title The American Perfumer, the editors noted with relief that perfumes were not encompassed by the recently enacted Food and Drug Act. After cosmetics became regulated in 1934 by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, articles appeared expressing concerns about cosmetic law enforcement and cosmetic advertising and patent protection for cosmetics by the August 1938 edition. In an article1 titled, “Hair Preparations: Cosmetics or Patent Medicines,” published in October 1938, Ruth Hooper Larisson discussed the problems of making product efficacy claims. The author posited that if medicinal claims were made, the complete formula would have to be published at the risk of imitation or formulas would have to be patented for protection. Now, of course, with ingredient labeling being required regardless of the efficacy claims made, imitation is still a risk unless the product is protected by patent.

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