The Electric Shaver Battle – A case study and analysis of the global dispute between Philips and Izumi concerning the legal protection of the shape of Philips’ electric shavers and an assessment of Philips’ legal strategy and its effects on the market
As the title “The Electric Shaver Battle” reveals, this thesis is about a global legal dispute between two electric shaver manufacturers. The Dutch company Philips was the sole supplier in the world of triple-headed rotary shavers, and had obtained trademark and design protection for the shape of the top part of the shaver in several jurisdictions. Izumi, a Japanese company, decided to enter the triple-headed rotary shaver market with its own triple-headed shaver models. Philips reacted strongly against this threat to its virtual monopoly position, and the “shaver battle” was a fact. The dispute came to spread to eleven countries over three continents, and is still ongoing. Mainly Philips has sued Izumi for trademark and competition law infringement, while Izumi and its related companies has sought the cancellation of Philips’ trademarks. The main ground for invalidation and cancellation of the trademarks has been that the shape of the trademarks is necessary to obtain the technical result. In almost all jurisdictions the contested trademarks have been cancelled on this ground. Nonetheless, Philips has continued to sue companies selling Izumi-manufactured shavers even after the repetitious losses in courts of numerous countries. In this thesis I have analyzed and described twenty-five judgments and decisions of the dispute, which is very close to an exhaustive presentation of all the judgments rendered. In each judgment, I have described the parties’ claims, the grounds and argumentation and the court’s reasoning and decision, and also compared the different judgments with each other. The thesis thus comprises a thorough empirical gathering and presentation of nearly all the judgments of the dispute. The judgments of the thesis mainly concerns trademark law, but also competition law and design law is discussed. I have also tried to determine and analyze Philips’ international legal IPR enforcement and competition strategy and how successful or unsuccessful the strategy has been for Philips. I have tried to assess what consequences the strategy has had for Philips’ competitors and the competition on electric shaver markets all over the world. I find it interesting that Philips despite repetitious expensive losses has continued to initiate litigations and take other legal actions, which is why I have also tried to determine what Philips has gained on the strategy, and what its competitors have lost. Furthermore, I have tried to see what effects Philips’ legal actions has had on the triple-headed shaver market, and how the market has changed after Philips lost its monopoly position in the various countries.
Göteborg University. School of Business, Economics and Law