Imperial Tobacco Unit Suing U.S. E-Cigarette Makers

An Imperial Tobacco Group Plc unit has sued Lorillard Inc., NJOY Inc., Vapor Corp. and eight other makers of electronic cigarettes in U.S. patent lawsuits alleging they infringed its intellectual property, reported Bloomberg.

Amsterdam-based Fontem Ventures BV filed nine lawsuits in a federal court in Los Angeles on March 5, according to court filings cited by the news agency. It asked the court to rule that its patents were valid and for the defendants to pay as yet unspecified damages.

Fontem also sued VMR Products LLC, Ballantyne Brands LLC, CB Distributors Inc., Spark Industries LLC, Logic Technology Development LLC, FIN Branding Group LLC, Victory Electronic Cigarettes Corp. and DR Distributors LLC.

Imperial Tobacco, which bought Dragonite International Ltd.'s e-cigarette unit for $75 million in September, said it would launch two new products in 2014 as more smokers switch to vaping.

The U.S. lawsuits were first reported by The Financial Times.

Imperial has only had its e-cigarette, Puritane, on the shelves for a few weeks, the newspaper said.

"This is why [Imperial] are throwing the dice a bit, to fast-track themselves," Eddy Hargreaves, analyst at Canaccord Genuity, told the paper.

A spokesperson for Fontem Ventures told the Times: "The reason for filing this lawsuit is to protect our intellectual property and seek fair compensation for the infringements of our patents."

FIN Branding declined to comment; Lorillard, NJOY, Logic, CB Distributors, Ballantyne Brands and Vapor Corp did not respond to the newspaper's requests for comment.

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