BOSTON (AP) _ The federal judge overseeing a patent dispute between Gillette and Schick-Wilkinson Sword scheduled a preliminary hearing for early November, assuring Schick will be able to at least begin selling its new, four-bladed Quattro later this month.

Schick-Wilkinson Sword, owned by St. Louis-based Energizer Holdings, plans to begin selling the product Sept. 19. Gillette, which contends the technology violates patents on the technology behind Gillette's three-bladed razors, had sought a preliminary injunction blocking sale of the new product.

At a scheduling hearing Thursday, Gillette attorney John Nathan urged U.S. District Judge Patti Saris to speed matters along, saying ``this is just too important for Gillette,'' but made no apparent effort to insist the hearing appear on the docket before the launch date.

``No matter what happens, this product will be launched Sept. 19,'' Energizer attorney Randall Litton said. ``It's going to be on the market before we ever have a hearing.''

An Energizer spokeswoman declined further comment.

Gillette, which has claimed it spent $1 billion developing its Mach3 Turbo razor, contends the Quattro uses ``progressive geometry'' technology Gillette patented that allows each of a succession of blades to shave closer to the skin than the previous one.

Last week, Gillette filed court papers in which an in-house engineer reports on tests of samples of Quattro cartridges that the company obtained, claiming the products are substantially similar.

The merits of the suit were not argued at Thursday's hearing, but Litton indicated he would challenge the validity of the Gillette patent. The companies are already engaged in a dispute in Europe over patents on the same technology.