Law Street Media

Altria Responds To Complaint Before International Trade Commission

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RAI Strategic Holdings, Inc. (RAI) and R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company filed a complaint to the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) on April 9, requesting the ITC to institute an investigation into violations under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. § 1337, by Altria Client Services LLC et al.   Altria responded to the complaint on June 1. RAI and Reynolds Vapor are being represented by Jones Day, and Altria and co-respondents are being represented by Latham & Watkins.  This case is in front of Judge Clark S. Cheney.

The complaint was based on Altria’s alleged infringement upon three patents that RAI owns: 9,839,238; 9,901,123; and 9,930,915. The accused products are “tobacco heating articles and components thereof that are being imported into the United States, sold for importation into the United States, and/or sold within the United States after importation, by or on behalf of Respondents” that allegedly infringe on the asserted patents.  Specifically, respondents IQOS® system.  IQOS is a heated tobacco system that allows adult smokers to use by heating it instead of burning it.  The FDA cleared Philip Morris’ IQOS® system in April 2019.

While admitting to certain superficial similarities, Altria categorically denied “they have directly or through their affiliates or third parties engaged in acts of unfair competition in violation of Section 337 by importing, selling for importation, and/or selling within the United States after importation any product that infringes literally and/or  under the doctrine of equivalents, contributorily, and/or by inducement, any valid and enforceable  asserted claim of U.S. Patent Nos. 9,839,238 (“the ’238 patent”), 9,901,123 (“the ’123 patent”)  and 9,930,915 (“the ’915 patent”).”  Respondents also raised several affirmative defenses, including for each asserted patent that the claims are invalid, because for failure to meet the requirements of 35 U.S.C. §§ 102, 103, and/or 112.  Furthermore, Altria states “[c]omplainants’ demands for relief are barred under 19 U.S.C. § 1337(d)(l) because of the detrimental effect such relief would have upon the public health and welfare, competitive conditions in the United States economy, the production of like or directly competitive articles in the United States, and United States consumers.”  In support of respondents, an abundance of Public Interest Statements were filed, most notably were: Congressman George Holding; The American Vaping Association, The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association; and Nextera Healthcare.

This litigation parallels a patent infringement case filed in the Eastern District of Virginia by RAI and Reynolds Vapor against Altria also on April 9.  That case contains the same asserted patents, along with patent nos. 8,314,591, and 10,492,542.  In both these suits Altria denied all claims by its competitor, and denied it is entitled to any relief.

Philip Morris filed a separate response, following suit with parent company Altria.

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