from the might-be-a-bit-extreme dept
From there, however, Makkai suggests patents have actually been making shaving worse. His argument is that as the makers of shaving equipment have been fearful of competing with commodity products, they keep "inventing" new ways to shave that they can lock up under patent -- and then try to convince you that it creates a better shave, even if none of the "improved" razors come close to one of those old safety razors:
The commodification of the razor blade was punishing to the profit margins of the razor companies. So the way ahead was clear: come up with new designs, patent them, and make a killing selling the disposable blades.Admittedly, this is a bit of a cynical view on things. And one could make the argument that this isn't so much about patents as it is about marketing -- though it could be a combination of both. Frankly, the story reminds me of what we see all too often in the pharmaceutical world these days -- where when Claritin is about to go off patent, suddenly we get Clarinex, with an associated marketing campaign about how you have to use that rather than the original (much cheaper and equally effective) Claritin. Of course, if people didn't fall for the marketing campaigns, none of this would matter -- but they do. So combine that with the ability to charge monopoly rents due to patents, and voila, many of you are getting a crappy shave, despite the ten blades or whatever they're shoving on those darn cartridges these days. We should always be wary when life imitates The Onion, and wonder if, perhaps, the incentives are screwed up somewhere along the line.
Thus the 1970s saw the emergence of the BIC disposable razor. Why replace just the blade when you can throw out and replace the whole razor?
Then in the 1980s, Gillette introduced the double-bladed Sensor cartridges. Now the question was: Why throw out the whole razor when you can just replace the cartridge?
Needless to say, these innovations were driven not so much by an improvement of the shaving experience but by the need to create a technology which could be patented.
Indeed, the injector razor did not improve the shaving experience compared to the classic double-edged safety razor, and the disposable razor was in no way superior to the injector razor. Likewise, the Sensor cartridges did not improve on the disposable razor. These developments only made shaving more expensive.