Vape wars America vs Amsterdam
Vapers are most likely aware that there’s a global war on vaping happening: the FDA, the WHO, local lawmakers and anti-vaping lobbyists are all fighting to stop people having access to what scientists all around the world are currently proving to be lifesaving products. Despite this, tens of thousands of Americans want to ban vaporizers and e-liquids and they show no distinction between the vape products that have been designed to help people quit smoking or the vaporizers coming from the cannabis industry. (Marijuana, when vaped, can help people cope with a wide-range of illnesses and diseases including; cancer, schizophrenia, obesity, epilepsy and arthritis). But what most vapers won’t be aware of is that there’s currently a global battle going on within the vape trade for supremacy over vaporizer and e-cig technology.
Hon Lik, creator of the contemporary e-cigarette
The technology was originally developed by a Chinese pharmacist over a decade ago as a means to help people kick their smoking habits. Hon Lik, inventor of what every vaper considers to be the contemporary e-cig sold his company (Dragonite International Ltd.) and the original patents to his invention in 2013 to Fontem Ventures, an Amsterdam subsidiary of Imperial Brands Plc.
Now, the device he designed is being the focus of a patent war between a pair of American tobacco giants and a European competitor. At stake are the profits from a market which is currently valued at over $5 billion and the fighting is becoming more intense. In recent weeks there have been several filings for U.S. Patents and Trademarks.
Since April of this year, Fontem Ventures has filed three patent-infringement law suits against Reynolds American Inc. (the maker of Camels who are based in North Carolina) and Altria Group Inc. (the maker of Marlboro who are based in Virginia), demanding that royalties should be paid to them from each and every sale of Reynold’s Vuse Solo Vapor Cigarettes and Altria’s MarkTen XL and Green Smoke brands.
Fontem is also hoping to obtain several court orders to block further use of its inventions which could force the companies that they’re currently fighting to have to dramatically change their products.
“Fontem paid nothing for these patents. They can make a big threat and hopefully get a settlement so why not shoot for the stars?” – Ken Shea, Analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.
However, unlike other companies who easily capitulated to Fontem’s legal attacks (like Njoy Inc. and Vapor Corp), Reynolds and Altria are pushing back against the company. They’re challenging eight of their patents, stating that many of them are simply a combination of old ideas which don’t meet the legal standard of an innovation. They also state that vaporizers have now evolved so much that every one of their products is beyond what’s covered by the original e-cig’s patents.
The U.S. litigation is going to be a long and tough battle and the tobacco giants may threaten the Fontem patents as a way to angle for cheaper settlements.
In a time when every company in the vape industry should show solidarity against the thousands who want vaporizers and e-juices to vanish, it’s a shame that some of them are taking each other to court.