Altria Files E-vapor Patent Infringement Complaint Against Juul

Tobacco major Altria Group, Inc. has filed a complaint against electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc., seeking a ban on the import and sale of certain Juul e-vapor products.

The patent infringement complaint has been filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission or ITC by Altria’s newly acquired subsidiary, NJOY. The complaint alleges that Juul’s devices and pods infringe certain patents owned by NJOY.

JUUL is alleged to have involved in trade violations associated with the sale of imported products that infringe U.S. Patent No. 11,497,864 and U.S. Patent No. 10,334,881. NJOY acquired these patents from Fuma International, LLC concurrently with the settlement of a patent infringement lawsuit filed by Fuma.

With the move, Altria, which once owned a good share in Juul, seeks a ban on the importation and sale of certain Juul e-vapor products, including its currently marketed Juul device and Juul pods.

NJOY has also filed a patent infringement complaint against Juul in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. According to the company, NJOY ACE is currently the only pod-based e-vapor product to receive marketing authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA. The health regulator had deemed the marketing of the ACE device and three ACE tobacco-flavored pods as “appropriate for the protection of public health.”

Murray Garnick, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, said, “Protecting our intellectual property is critical to achieving our Vision. JUUL has infringed upon our patents through the sale of its imported products, and we ask the ITC to impose appropriate remedies in response to these trade violations.”

It was in early June that Altria agreed to buy e-cigarette startup NJOY for $2.75 billion with a view to improve its portfolio of smoke-free products.

The announcement came soon after Altria exited its stake in Juul Labs. According to reports, Altria in 2018 paid $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul Labs, but the company exited after scrutiny from federal regulators and thousands of lawsuits that claimed Juul had targeted minors.

In April this year, Juul agreed to pay $462 million to settle claims by six US states that it unlawfully marketed its addictive products to minors. Juul reached an agreement with New York, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Washington, D.C. So far, Juul has faced and settled many lawsuits for their alleged role in contributing to the youth vaping epidemic that led to a rise in underage e-cigarette vaping nationwide.

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