Vape manufacturer NJOY has filed a patent complaint against rival Juul Labs, and is asking the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban the importation of some Juul products, including the company’s flagship JUUL device and pods. The ITC complaint was filed Aug. 22, along with a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.
The legal maneuvers follow identical actions taken by Juul regarding the NJOY Ace pod vape. In June, Juul filed an ITC complaint against NJOY (and a companion federal lawsuit), asking the trade regulator to block imported Ace devices and pods. The NJOY Ace is the only pod-based vaping device that has received marketing authorization by the FDA. The ITC announced on Aug. 1 it would investigate Juul’s claims.
NJOY was acquired earlier this year by tobacco giant Altria Group for $2.75 billion, immediately after Altria traded its 35 percent share in Juul Labs for rights to unrelated Juul intellectual property. Altria had ended its non-competition agreement with Juul last September.
Both companies now claim the other is infringing their patented intellectual property. NJOY parent company Altria said in a statement that the two NJOY patents it alleges Juul has infringed were acquired by the company as part of a settlement with Ohio-based Fuma International. (Fuma also settled with R.J. Reynolds after a federal judge ruled that the Reynolds-owned Vuse Solo and Vuse Ciro infringed Fuma patents.)
Patent disputes by vape and tobacco manufacturers against competitors are not especially unusual. Last September, Altria was awarded $95 million from rival R.J. Reynolds after a federal jury found that Reynolds’ Vuse Alto device infringed three Altria patents. Reynolds claimed the lawsuit was retaliation for its complaint against Altria regarding the IQOS heated tobacco product. In that dispute, Altria was forced by the ITC to stop selling imported IQOS devices.