ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Altria Group Inc. and Philip Morris International (PMI) have been ordered by the U.S. International Trade Commission to stop selling the alternative smoking device IQOS in the United States, reports The Roanoke Times. The ruling said that the IQOS device infringes on two patents held by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in late September that Altria and its former subsidiary, Philip Morris International, must halt imports and sales of the IQOS device, and the ruling was affirmed on Monday. The devices are PMI’s IQOS 2.4, IQOS 3 and IQOS 3 Duo heat-not-burn cigarette products. It also was ordered to halt future sales of those products—marketed as Marlboro HeatSticks—already in the U.S.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed Altria to market the product as a potentially "reduced-risk" nicotine product.
"We’re disappointed in this decision, as IQOS is the only inhalable tobacco product to have received FDA authorization as a modified risk tobacco product," Altria said in a statement. "The ITC’s importation ban makes the product unavailable for all consumers who have switched to IQOS, reduces the options for the over 20 million smokers looking for alternatives to cigarettes, and ultimately is detrimental to the public health."
Altria said it’s working to remove IQOS and HeatSticks from the market, and it said it’s working on contingency plans to make these products available again at retail.
Philip Morris International said the U.S. Patent office also is reviewing the patent claims in question, with initial rulings expected in 2022, subject to an appeal process.
The initial lawsuit was filed by three Reynolds business units—R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., RAI Strategic Holdings Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. The complaint, filed in April 2020, focuses on the three heat-not-burn technology patents held by British American Tobacco PLC. The patents were issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office between November 2012 and December 2019.
“Today’s announcement provides a measure of success for our enforcement of intellectual property rights to ensure we can continue to innovate, as is common practice among innovation-based industries,” Gareth Cooper, British American Tobacco Plc. assistant general counsel, said in a statement.