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Altria files patent suit against Juul; seeks import ban

August 23, 2023

The Altria office building in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/File Photo)

Altria Group has on Tuesday said its subsidiary NJOY has filed a complaint against Juul Labs with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), seeking a ban on the import and sale of certain JUUL vape products, including its currently marketed JUUL device and JUULpods.

The complaint alleges that the JUUL products infringe certain patents owned by NJOY. Altria acquired the leading US vape brand earlier this year, soon after its exit from Juul Labs where it held a minority stake.

“Protecting our intellectual property is critical to achieving our vision,” said Murray Garnick, executive vice president and general counsel at Altria Group. “Juul has infringed upon our patents through the sale of its imported products, and we ask the ITC to impose appropriate remedies in response to these trade violations.”

NJOY has also filed a complaint against Juul in the US District Court for the District of Delaware based on the same patent infringement. Altria said NJOY ACE is currently the only pod-based vape product to receive marketing authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which deemed the marketing of the ACE device and three ACE tobacco-flavored pods as “appropriate for the protection of public health.”

NJOY’s ITC complaint against Juul alleges trade violations associated with the sale of imported products that infringe the patents, which the brand acquired from Fuma International, concurrently with the settlement of a patent infringement lawsuit filed against Altria by Fuma.

Responding to the development, Juul Labs said: “We stand behind our intellectual property and will continue to pursue our infringement claims.”

In March, Altria has divested its minority stake in the Juul Labs, exchanging it for a non-exclusive, irrevocable global license to certain of Juul’s heated tobacco intellectual property. Later in the same month, Altria announced the acquisition of NJOY Holdings.

Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and other brands in tobacco and nicotine, invested about $13bn in Juul in late 2018, a stake that has been written down several times as Juul has faced various government crackdowns. As of December 31, 2022, the carrying value and estimated fair value of Altria’s Juul investment was $250m.

Meanwhile, Juul is looking to bring its next-generation vapour platform, JUUL2 System, which is launched in the UK in 2021, to the US market, and the company has filed a Premarket Tobacco Product Application for the product to the FDA in July.

Last year, the FDA has banned the sale of all currently marketed JUUL products in the US market after finding the vaping giant had failed to address certain safety concerns.

Juul has immediately secured a court stay on the ales ban and the regulator itself put its decision on hold later, saying there are scientific issues unique to the Juul application that warrant additional review. Juul’s administrative appeal is still pending.