The PM Protocol

Philip Morris USA, AGs to establish protocols for reducing illegal web, remote cigarette sales

RICHMOND, Va. -- Philip Morris USA has joined with 37 state attorneys general to establish protocols aimed at combating illegal sales of the company's cigarettes over the Internet or by mail, telephone or fax. The protocols have been established for responding to state-provided information related to illegal remote sales.

Under the agreement, PM USA has voluntarily agreed to suspend shipments to direct customers a state determines have engaged in illegal remote sales of its cigarettes, reduce the volume of its cigarettes available to direct customers [image-nocss] a state determines have indirectly engaged in illegal remote sales of its cigarettes and to suspend retailers participating in its trade programs if the state determines the retailer has engaged in illegal remote sales of PM USA cigarettes.

PM USA has independently supported compliance with state and federal laws that regulate remote sales, and the actions to be taken by PM USA will be consistent with those previously undertaken by the company in response to illicit trade in its products.

Our voluntary agreement with the state attorneys general builds on Philip Morris USA's existing trade programs and policies intended to preserve the integrity of our brands and the legitimate trade channels through which they are sold, said Denise Keane, Richmond, Va.-based PM USA's executive vice president and general counsel. It sets a framework for continued information sharing with law enforcement and support of their efforts to eliminate illegal sales of Philip Morris USA products.

PM USA wholesale and retail program participants are obligated to comply with all applicable laws, as well as PM USA trade policies. The company said it supports the efforts of law enforcement and regulatory authorities to eliminate illegal sales of PM USA cigarettes.

The company also said it pursues litigation against Internet sellers that infringe on the company's intellectual property rights. To date, the company has been awarded 16 federal court judgments and permanent injunctions against operators of infringing Internet websites. It also supports the passage of legislation at the federal and state levels designed to enhance the tools available to enforcement authorities seeking to eliminate illegal trade in the company's products.