RICHMOND, Va. — A North Carolina jury determined that R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. (RJR Vapor) must pay Altria Group Inc. more than $95 million, finding electronic cigarettes from RJR Vapor's Vuse line infringed three Altria patents.
In the case of Altria Client Services vs. Reynolds Vapor Company, et al., the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina found that RJR Vapor violated three Altria patents covering the pod assembly used in Vuse Alto. The patents were awarded to Altria by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office based on filings dating back to April 2015.
"Patents are at the core of innovation and we take very seriously protecting our intellectual property," said Murray Garnick, executive vice president and general counsel for Altria. "We are pleased that the jury recognized the importance of Altria's innovation and the value of its patent rights."
The jury awarded Altria $95,233,292 in past damages through June 30, 2022. Post-trial proceedings will address ongoing damages through the expiration of the company’s patents in 2035.
At trial, Altria urged the jury to find a royalty rate of 5.25 percent, which the jury accepted in returning its award of past damages.
As Convenience Store News previously reported, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued marketing authorization orders for certain Vuse Ciro and Vuse Vibe products to remain on the market. The move came about seven months after the FDA authorized Vuse Solo products in original flavor to remain on the market.
RJR Vapor, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., is an indirect subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT).
At the time, RJR Vapor's premarket tobacco applications (PMTA) for Vuse Alto continued to be under review and were still available for the U.S. market. That PMTA was submitted nearly a year after Vuse Solo, and five months after Vuse Vibe and Ciro.
Those applications share foundational science, according to BAT.
Richmond-based Altria is "Moving Behind Smoking," leading the way in moving adult smokers away from cigarettes by taking action to transition millions to potentially less harmful choices. The company's wholly owned subsidiaries include manufacturers of both combustible and smoke-free products, including Philip Morris USA Inc., John Middleton Co., U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. LLC and Helix Innovations LLC.
Altria enhances its smoke-free product portfolio with exclusive U.S. commercialization rights to the IQOS Tobacco Heating System and Marlboro HeatSticks. The company also has an equity investment in Juul Labs Inc.
Additionally, Altria owns equity investments in Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV and Cronos Group Inc. The brand portfolios of Altria's tobacco operating companies include Marlboro, Black & Mild, Copenhagen, Skoal and on!.