Altria seeks US import ban on Juul e-vapor products

FILE PHOTO: Juul brand vape cartridges are pictured for sale at a shop in Atlanta

(Reuters) – Marlboro maker Altria Group said on Tuesday that its subsidiary e-cigarette firm NJOY has filed a complaint against rival Juul Labs with the U.S. International Trade Commission, seeking a ban on the import and sale of Juul products.

The move escalates a dispute between the two e-cigarette makers after Juul filed a similar patent infringement case against NJOY at the ITC in June.

Altria once held a 35% stake in Juul, which it purchased for $12.8 billion in 2018. Altria exited the agreement earlier this year, just days before announcing a purchase of NJOY Holdings for about $2.75 billion.

NJOY said in its filings that Juul products infringe two of its patents, and that it intends to obtain a ban on products including its currently marketed Juul device and Juul pods.

NJOY also sued Juul in Delaware on Tuesday for infringing the same patents, seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

Juul filed its own patent lawsuits against NJOY and Altria at the ITC and in Arizona federal court in June, seeking money damages and a ban on imports of NJOY’s Ace vapor device.

Juul said in a statement on Tuesday that it stands behind its intellectual property and will continue to pursue its infringement claims.

Altria won more than $95 million from cigarette rival R.J. Reynolds in North Carolina federal court last year after a jury found RJR infringed other Altria e-cigarette patents. RJR won an order blocking imports of Philip Morris International’s IQOS heated-tobacco device, which Altria had distributed in the U.S., from the ITC in 2021.

(Reporting by Granth Vanaik in Bengaluru, Chris Kirkham in Los Angeles and Blake Brittain in Washington; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Marguerita Choy)