GLENVIEW, Ill. —Republic Tobacco LP reported successful enforcement actions and legal battles intended to stop the sale of counterfeit tobacco products in several recent court decisions.
Republic Tobacco has made it a continuing goal to stop counterfeit products by meeting this illegal behavior with aggressive actions nationwide, it said. Company officials have stepped up their work with federal and state law enforcement agents, pursuing coordinated police raids, government enforcement actions, civil suits and counterfeit product seizures.
“The bad guys don’t stop, so we won’t stop—ever,” Republic CEO Don Levin said. “Even at a time like this when an international crisis has essentially lowered the gates on most cities and significantly slowed many businesses, we won’t quit doing everything within our power to stop those who seek to profit from selling counterfeit products.”
Enforcement activity includes:
- The granting by a Nevada District Court of statutory damages, fines and attorney fees totaling more than $800,000 assessed against a Chinese national and his company for selling counterfeit versions of Republic’s TOP- and JOB-branded cigarette rolling papers.
- A case in a Tennessee Federal District Court against company called Smoke Dreams that stemmed from a U.S. Customs and Border Control operation that intercepted cases of counterfeit JOB-branded cigarette rolling papers imported from China and sales of those papers by Smoke Dreams. Republic Tobacco filed a federal complaint alleging federal trademark violations, among others, ultimately forcing Smoke Dreams to close and sell its assets, it said said.
- A federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania against two related sellers of TOP- and JOB-branded cigarette rolling papers, Easy Wholesale and Smoke Shop, as well as the individual owners of the companies, alleging the sale of counterfeit goods in violation of the federal trademark law.
- Republic Tobacco settled a complaint in Virginia that alleged federal and related state law trademark violations by a former Republic customer, VA Traders Market Place, and its owner, based on its sales of counterfeit TOP- and JOB-branded cigarette rolling papers, resulting in a monetary settlement and a permanent injunction prohibiting them from making unauthorized use of TOP or JOB marks.
- Republic Tobacco assisted with two law enforcement raids at wholesalers near Atlanta, Star Importers & Wholesalers and ZCell & Novelties, where a significant amount of counterfeit rolling papers were seized. Republic Tobacco then filed federal civil lawsuits, which are still ongoing, against Star and ZCell alleging violations of federal and state trademark laws.
- Republic Tobacco cooperated with FBI agents in Georgia on an investigation into the owners and operators of EC Wholesale. Its owners, Irafanali Nisarali Momin and Shiba I. Momin, were indicted on 39 federal criminal charges on Dec. 19 and charged with trafficking counterfeit goods, smuggling goods into the United States, receiving misbranded drugs and conspiracy. The pair pleaded guilty to criminal information, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and will be sentenced Jan. 7, 2021.
Republic Tobacco’s proactive approach has resulted in multiple other counterfeit suppliers closing shops, the company said. It continues to file lawsuits against wholesalers and retailers trafficking counterfeit versions of the company’s products.
Glenview, Ill.-based Republic Tobacco is one of the nation’s largest wholesale distributors of roll-your-own products, pipe tobacco and accessories, including such brands as JOB, TOP, OCB, Gambler, EZ-Wider, Drum, Largo and TubeCut.