• October 1, 2020

Countermove: Altria Sues Reynolds Over Patent Infringement

Altria Group Inc.’s e-cigarette and smokeless tobacco divisions filed suit Thursday against competitor R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. for patent infringement on e-cigarettes and associated products.

Altria owns a 35 percent stake in e-cigarette industry leader Juul Labs Inc., a direct competitor of Reynolds’ Vuse brand of e-cigarettes.

According to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Reynolds Vapor, owned by Reynolds American Inc., violated nine patents held by Altria Client Services in producing its Vuse Vapor e-cigarette line, according to a story on Virginiabusiness.com. The suit contends that Reynolds’ Vuse brand of e-cigarettes — including the Vibe and Alto — uses heating technology, mouthpieces, batteries and liquid-filled pods covered by Altria’s patents for its Juul e-vapor products.

Based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Reynolds American Inc. is owned by British American Tobacco plc, which is headquartered in London. “Reynolds Vapor has infringed on Altria’s intellectual property and we are seeking financial damages for each of these violations,” Altria Client Services spokesman George Parman said Thursday, according to the story.

The suit comes weeks after Reynolds filed its own patent-infringement suit against Altria and Philip Morris International Inc. in Richmond’s federal court over its heat-not-burn cigarette line, Marlboro HeatSticks, a competitor of Reynolds’ Eclipse line.

Altria seeks unspecified monetary compensation but asks for “treble damages” — in other words, triple the amount — for “defendant’s willful infringement” of the patents, as well as awards of compensation, supplemental damages after discovery cutoff and attorneys’ fees and expenses. The plaintiffs ask for a trial by jury. No hearing has been set.