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Gillette Strikes Back at Dollar Shave Club With a Lawsuit

A grooming giant claims that an indie upstart infringed on the patents of its razor technology.

NEW YORK — Gillette may have found a way to derail the rapid growth of Dollar Shave Club.

In a federal lawsuit filed in the District Court of Delaware, the Procter & Gamble division said Dollar Shave Club is violating several sections of its Razor Technology patent, used in the design of its Mach 3, Venus and Fusion razors. The documents mention Dollar Shave Club’s razors “The Humble Twin,” “The 4X,” and “The Executive.”

The lawsuit alleges that Dollar Shave Club is violating Gillette’s intellectual property by selling its infringing razors. The company seeks damages and an injunction to prevent Dollar Shave Club from selling any products with Gillette’s patented technology. Dorco, the South Korean maker of Dollar Shave’s razors is not named in the suit because Dollar Shave is the actual seller, those familiar with the suit said. “We have long invested heavily in innovation, and our talented scientists have dedicated their careers to delivering the best shaving experience possible for men and women around the world,” said Deborah P. Majoras, P&G’s chief legal officer said in a statement. “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.”

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Dollar Shave Club, which burst onto the scene in 2012 offering a subscription plan for razors costing as little as $1 per month, said it is aware of the suit but did not comment further. The company hit upon a need in the market for convenient purchase and replenishment of razors. Founder Michael Dubin’s helped build a loyal following via a clever promotional video seen by millions — the YouTube segment alone has been seen by 21 million times.

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Earlier this year, Dubin said the company has 2 million subscribers; about 10 percent to 20 percent are female. Dollar Shave Club is estimated to own 10 percent of the U.S. men’s cartridge market. Noting “nothing fun comes in the mail anymore,” Dubin announced plans to expand into non-razor categories such as hair care.

Gillette controls about 60 to 70 percent of the shaving retail market. But according to IRI data for the first half of 2015, its sales have declined in almost every shave category. Sales of Mach 3, for example, dropped 10 percent and Fusion was off 9 percent. The entire category, however, has been slowed by an increase in men growing facial hair as well as growth of private labels. To help offset inroads made by direct marketers such as Dollar Shave Club, Gillette responded with its own subscription model last year.