I have been looking into starting a line of skin care and cosmetics products. I am somewhat familiar with cosmetic product formulation and composition, but I am unsure about the use of certain active ingredients and the patents that may protect them.
A particular ingredient that I would like to use in an anti-aging product is Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF), which has apparently already been patented for cosmetic use by Dr. Gregory Bays Brown. However, despite his patent, other cosmetics companies are using EGF in their formulations for the exact same purpose and type of product. Is this legal? Is there any way that these companies can be using EGF for the same purpose as stated in the patent but somehow finding ways to avoid prosecution?
I would like to know if active ingredients such as EGF can be patented for cosmetic use despite the fact that they are naturally occuring chemicals. Can someone patent a specific ingredient, or do they have to patent its specific use or production method? As well, would it be possible to circumvent such a patent by suggesting a different formulation and/or method of production for the compound containing the ingredient? In general, can cosmetic ingredients that are used in a wide variety of products be used by any cosmetics company?
As well, I have noted what appear to be many patents for cosmetic ingredients and their uses that overlap. For example, I have found a patent that claims right to topical compositions of EGF in a polyoxyethylene polymer vehicle and another patent for EGF in a cellulose polymer and yet another for EGF in a crystaline form. Is it really just a matter of changing the medium that the EGF is in to get a new product and hence an new patent?
Thanks for your help.