The battle to be at the pinnacle of the vaping pyramid has been raging for years. Right at the birth of the electronic cigarette industry were several companies racing to be the first to get a good product to market and to get ecig patents. It wasn’t long before a few of them had a viable vaping product that held wide appeal among smokers. Ever since then, the battle has been to one-up each other and create a better product. A better product means more sales, more market share, and dominance of an industry that is worth billions of dollars. Right?
Well, sure, that’s part of it. But the top rated ecig brands have also found themselves waging wars externally and internally. They’ve had to defend the industry as a whole from ridiculous attacks and misinformation. Such as those who are certain ecigs will lure teens to the world of nicotine. Or others who make unfounded claims about formladyde levels in eliquid. Sure, these myths may get debunked, but it forces companies and vapers alike to be on the defensive.
Internally these companies are obviously in a battle for customers. That said, they’re now finding themselves waging a war over ecig patents. In fact, this type of war has been brewing for a while. We reported on it more than two years ago, when Fontem Ventures filed their first lawsuit against many of the top ecig brands on the market then. Fontem Ventures is a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco and currently owns and distributes Blu Ecigs. They deftly purchased Dragonite International back in 2013, and along with it came all of Hon Lik’s electronic cigarette patents. Which leads us to where we are today.
Ecig Patents A Battle About Old Technology
Well, some of the top earning ecig companies are not taking this battle sitting down. While Fontem Ventures was able to settle with some of the smaller companies, mammoths RJ Reynolds and Altria aren’t about to set a precedent and shy away from a legal battle. They’ve each filed counter claims challenging eight of Hon Lik’s ecig patents. Hon Like may be the godfather of the electronic cigarette, but that doesn’t mean that he gets free reign over all new products. At least that’s the case RJ Reynolds and Altria are basically making.
The two, who are also the largest two tobacco manufacturers in America, assert that these newer patents aren’t new at all. They’re just reconstructed or combined versions of older concepts, and that this means they do not meet the legal standard of innovation. Some industry experts agree with them, such as Ray Story. As the head of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, Story follows the news closely. His opinion is that these patents filed by Fontem Ventures are “very broad in scope — they basically cover any aspect of a cigarette.”
Beyond that, this is a battle over what Story describes as “yesterday’s technology.” We can’t really disagree, because Hon Lik’s designs were simply the infant stage of the industry. We’ve seen a great deal of breakthroughs in innovation from the vapor manufacturers and that’s why you don’t see Fontem Ventures’ Blu Ecigs anywhere near the top of our editor’s rankings. So it’s not really about trying to take credit for these ecig patents and making sure nobody else uses them, because everyone has already moved on.
Electronic Cigarette Patent Battle Not About Credit
No, this battle is simply about money and power. Fontem is trying to use their ecig patents to leverage themselves into a better position and receive more favorable settlements. While this may work with the little guys, RJ Reynolds and Altria are clearly not in the same state of mind. They’ve decided to push back and challenge Fontem, and they have the money to do so. They may be battling over old technology, but they also don’t want to set a precedent of backing down.
The fight over ecig patents likely won’t affect vapers in any way, because the beat will go on and new products will replace old ones. Still, it’s an interesting power play to watch from afar and we know the lawyers that are getting paid love it. This industry has truly become a mammoth one, and leading ecigarette brands see the potential of even more money. That says a lot about how far we’ve come, and what is expected in the future.