Philip Morris Cleared to Become Altria

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Philip Morris Cleared to Become Altria

DENVER -- Philip Morris Cos. can change its corporate name to Altria Group Inc., a federal judge said, rejecting a challenge by a venture capital firm with a similar name.

Altira Group LLC, a Denver-based firm that invests in the oil and gas technology industry, sued to block the name change, arguing that institutional investors might be confused. The ruling allows Philip Morris to make the change until a trial can be held on the trademark-infringement issue, Bloomberg News reported.

Philip Morris, the world's biggest tobacco company and maker of category leader Marlboro, said it is changing its name to differentiate the parent company from its tobacco units, which are involved in dozens of lawsuits around the country.

New York-based Philip Morris said it was pleased with the ruling, although it gave no indication when the change will take place. Shareholders approved the new name in April.

"Our goal from the start has been to select a new name that would clearly identify our corporate parent as the owner of a diversified group of consumer products companies, and reflect the strength and diversity of our brands," Jay Poole, vice president of corporate communications for Philip Morris, said in a statement.

The company, which has $89.9 billion in annual sales, gets almost 60 percent of its revenue from tobacco products, the report said.