Altria Sues RJR Over E-Cigarette Patent Violations

Company claims Reynolds’ Vuse, Velo products infringe on several patents
Vuse alto
Photograph courtesy of Vuse

RICHMOND, Va. — Altria Client Services has filed a lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. claiming the company infringed on nine patents owned by Altria’s subsidiaries.

Altria, Richmond, Va., is seeking monetary damages from R.J. Reynolds, according to the lawsuit, filed May 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

Reynolds’ Vuse e-cigarettes and Velo smokeless nicotine pouches and associated products use heating coils, batteries, mouthpieces, liquid-filled pods and containers that violate Altria’s patent, Altria claims.

Reynolds’ parent company, London-based British American Tobacco (BAT), said in March that the Vuse vapor products were a success, and it had tripled its Vuse Alto share and doubled its Vuse share over the past six months, according to the lawsuit.  

“The success of the accused Vuse vapor products is attributable to those products embodying the inventions described and claimed in some of the asserted patents,” Altria states in the lawsuit.

However, Reynolds said Altria filed the patent infringement lawsuit in retaliation to a recent suit BAT filed against Philip Morris International (PMI)—something Altria denies.

This spring, BAT filed two lawsuits against PMI for allegedly infringing on its patents in regards to technology used in PMI’s IQOS heat-not-burn device. Altria has an agreement with New York-based PMI to market the IQOS in the U.S

“While we are still reviewing the complaint, we believe it is without merit and will vigorously defend the case and our innovative next generation products,” Reynolds said in a statement to CSP Daily News. “Reynolds has a long history of innovation and investment in research and development of next generation products like tobacco heating products, oral tobacco and vapor products for adult smokers, and has a robust patent portfolio around its next generation products, as evidenced by the patents we have asserted against Altria. We remain confident in our patent strategy to protect our innovative products and robust intellectual property portfolio.”

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