In the latest verdict in long-running advertising litigation between market leaders Gillette and Schick Wilkinson Sword, Schick has come out the winner. Can a razor really make bristles stand up on end? We report on the Connecticut court’s verdict.
Topic: Misleading advertising
Who: Schick Manufacturing Inc and Gillette
When: June 2005
US District Court Judge Janet C Hall granted razor manufacturer Schick (part of the Energizer Group) a preliminary injunction banning ads by Gillette for its competing product. The principal claims in issue were to the effect that the Gillette "M3 Power" razor's "micro pulses raise hair up and away from skin" allowing its user to get a closer shave.
Schick Wilkinson Sword argued that these claims were unsubstantiated and inaccurate and that the animated demonstration of the effect in the commercial was "greatly exaggerated." The Judge appears to have agreed, although Gillette had apparently at some point previously made amendments to the advertising in question to remove the disputed claim.
Despite this, Schick plans to use the ruling to push for compensatory damages equivalent to alleged lost market share and triple damages linked to M3 Power sales profits bearing in mind that it was the best selling new personal care product of the past year.
Why this matters:
Gillette was most recently announced to be considering an appeal against the judgment, but the case shows a marked difference between the position as regards trade descriptions claims in the US and the UK. Here in the UK it would not be possible for a competitor to seek directly relief from the courts in respect of a competitor's alleged misdescription of its product. Policing such advertising would be the job of Trading Standards Officers who are public officials tied to particular local authorities. If these officials are successful in launching a prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act, the court is empowered to mete out potentially quite significant fines of maybe a few thousand pounds, but nothing remotely of the order of a triple damages award which could be handed down by US jury.