Altria Group sues Juul over e-vapor patent infringement

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A pedestrian walks by an advertisement for Juul on the door of a smoke shop in New York.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Marlboro maker Altria Group said Tuesday its subsidiary NJOY has sued Juul Labs — the e-cigarette company it once held significant stake in — over patent infringement of certain e-vapor products.

In a complaint filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission, the tobacco conglomerate alleges that some of Juul’s products, including its device and pods, infringe upon patents owned by NJOY.

Altria has called for a ban on the importation and sale of these Juul products.

“Protecting our intellectual property is critical to achieving our Vision,” said Altria General Counsel Murray Garnick in a release. “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.”

Altria bought full global ownership of NJOY’s e-vapor product portfolio in June for approximately $2.75 billion. The deal included the product NJOY ACE, the only pod-based vape with market authorizations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In a statement to CNBC, a Juul spokesperson said, “We stand behind our intellectual property and will continue to pursue our infringement claims.”

In addition to the lawsuit filed with the ITC, Altria filed a similar suit against Juul in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

Prior to its purchase of NJOY, Altria cut ties with Juul, exiting a stake that had lost much of its value amid Juul’s legal setbacks.

In 2018, Altria’s investment in Juul was worth $12.8 billion. In March, before Altria’s exit, the stake was valued at $250 million, according to Reuters.

In recent years, Juul has settled several large cases brought by states, largely related to its marketing practices, which authorities said were deceptive and failed to warn users about the risks of its products.