Altria Sues Competitor For Patent Infringement

In a patent infringement suit filed Thursday, the Altria Group claimed that competitor R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company infringed on a variety of patents through its products. The suit was filed in the Middle District of North Carolina and was assigned to Judge N. C. Tilley, Jr.  Altria is being represented by Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Williams Mullen as local counsel.

Altria claimed that Reynolds Vapor knowingly and intentionally infringed upon one or more of the asserted patents regarding their products, including its “VUSE” e-vapor line and its “VELO” smokeless punches.  Specifically, Altria asserted Reynolds Vapor infringed with two products: “(a) the VUSE ALTO Power Unit and associated liquid-filled “Flavor Pack” pods (“the Accused VUSE ALTO Products”); and (b) the VUSE VIBE Power Unit and associated liquid-filled “Flavor Pack” tanks  (“the Accused VUSE VIBE Products”).”  Additionally, Altria alleged that “VELO Citrus and VELO Mint,” also infringed on the asserted patents.

Altria first asserted that Reynolds Vapor infringed on the ‘242 patent, because “Reynolds Vapor makes, uses, sells, offers to sell, and/or imports the Accused VUSE VIBE Products in the United States, including in this Judicial District and elsewhere.”  Altria highlighted text on images from the allegedly infringing product’s page on the defendant’s website. The text highlighted included descriptions such as “The most powerful e-cig in the Vuse line” and that “the Vibe boasts an ultra-long-lasting 600amAh battery.”“ They also claimed the “VUSE VIBE Flavor Pack tanks, have no substantial non-infringing uses, are not a staple article of commerce, and are specially made and adapted for use in an infringing manner.” 

For each claim of asserted patents ‘242, ‘824, ‘517, ‘269, ‘541, and ‘357 that generally pertain to the parts that make up an electronic vaping device or e-cigarette, Altria argued Reynolds Vapor’s products infringed upon them.  For example, as stated above, and in the claims of some the different asserted patents: claim 10 of the ‘357 patent, “An electronic vaping device comprising: a pod assembly including a plurality of external surfaces…”, claim 1 of the ‘842 patent, “A cartridge assembly for coupling to a battery portion of an electronic vaping device, the cartridge assembly comprising…”, and see claim 10 of the ‘517 patent, “An e-vapor apparatus, comprising…a vaporizer compartment…” Altria inserted public product images and descriptions from the VUSE Vapor website in the complaint and highlighted how they believed those product descriptions show infringement related to claims of the asserted patents.

Altria alleged the VELO Products directly infringe on patents ‘319, ‘996, and ‘070, which pertain to a tobacco product package device and the method of packaging tobacco.  Similar to their approach with claiming infringement by the accused VUSE VIBE Products, Altria incorporated public images and descriptions from VELO Products website, and highlighted specific language which they argued is evidence of direct infringement upon these patents.

The plaintiff has sought a jury trial and judgment in its favor; a judgment that defendant has infringed upon each of the asserted patents, an award for damages, costs, fees, and expenses; pre- and post-judgment interest, an award for supplemental damages and through the courts decision regarding imposition of a compulsory ongoing royalty; and other relief as determined by the court.