A North Carolina jury on Wednesday said R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co must pay tobacco giant Altria Group Inc more than $95 million, finding e-cigarettes from RJR’s top-selling Vuse line infringed three Altria patents.
Richmond, Virginia-based Altria accused rival RJR of violating patents related to vaping devices with pods for storing and heating liquid nicotine, and requested more than 5% of RJR’s royalties on Vuse Alto sales.
Altria said in a press release that the Greensboro, North Carolina, jury accepted its proposed royalty rate in calculating the $95.2 million award for past damages, and that RJR could owe more in ongoing damages through the patents’ expiration in 2035 after post-trial proceedings.
A copy of the verdict sheet was not immediately available.
A spokesperson for Winston-Salem, N.C.-based RJR said the company was disappointed by the verdict, would “vigorously defend the issues remaining for the court,” and will appeal if necessary.
Murray Garnick, Altria’s executive vice president and general counsel, said the company was “pleased that the jury recognized the importance of Altria’s innovation and the value of its patent rights.”
Wednesday’s verdict follows a $10 million win in June for Altria spinoff Philip Morris International Inc in Virginia on claims that RJR’s Vuse Solo and Alto devices infringe two of its vaping patents.
RJR has sued Philip Morris and Altria in the same Virginia case, claiming Philip Morris’ IQOS heated-tobacco device infringed its e-cigarette patents. RJR won an order blocking imports of IQOS, which Altria distributes in the United States, at the U.S. International Trade Commission last November.
The case is Altria Client Services LLC v. R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, No. 1:20-cv-00472.
For Altria: Elizabeth Weiswasser of Weil, Gotshal & Manges; and Robert Van Arnam of Williams Mullen
For RJR: David Maiorana of Jones Day; and John Morrow of Womble Bond Dickinson
Blake Brittain – Reuters – 2022-09-07.