The cutthroat razor wars

As a guy with a heavy beard, I pay close attention to developments involving men’s razors. I braved the crowds at Wal-Mart to become the first guy on my block to purchase the three-bladed Gillette Mach3 producing the world’s closest shave when it came out a few years back; I was ecstatic to read two weeks ago that Gillette’s competitor Schick was coming out with a new four-bladed “Quattro” razor that might do even better than the Mach3. Gillette promptly sued Schick for infringing certain of its patents and is seeking an injunction to prevent the introduction of the new Schick blade.
I think the Quattro will come out as scheduled without the issuance of an injunction because any infringement of Gillette’s patents by Schick could be fully remedied by monetary damages. In any event, I am on standby and fully intend to be the first guy on the block with a Schick Quattro when it is available.
I have been interested to observe the intense competition occurring between the two companies in a market that is essentially a duopoly dominated by Gillette. Sunday’s Boston Globe has a good story on this subject. The headline aptly refers to the cutthroat “War of the razors.”
The Globe story notes: “Razors are among the most heavily patented consumer products, with more than 1,000 patents covering everything from lubricating strips to cartridge-loading systems. Gillette has more than 50 patents covering its Mach3 franchise. Schick holds eight patents protecting the Quattro and has other applications pending at the US Patent and Trademark Office but won’t say how many or whether any address blade geometry. The patent volume in part reflects the competitive nature of the business. Around the world, people last year bought $7.5 billion of razors and blades, and Gillette and Schick are the two main players. Capitalizing on a history of innovation, Gillette dominates the market, with 72 percent of sales. Schick’s 18 percent share is a distant second. With Quattro, however, Schick could pull off a rare feat of technological one-upmanship.” Free enterprise — ain’t it beautiful?


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