Imperial Tobacco has lost a bid to defend it’s patent over electronic cigarettes in the UK. This particular lawsuit was brought up by Nicocigs LTD, which is a subsidiary of Philip Morris International. Technically the lawsuit was over Imperial Tobacco’s Fontem Holdings subsidiary, and it was against them “claiming improved aerosol effects and atomizing efficiency or, alternately, for a declaration that its e-cigarettes didn’t infringe the patent.”
Basically Philip Morris International sued for the right to continue marketing their own ecig products, at least in the UK. Imperial Tobacco currently owns and distributes Blu Ecigs, and they also picked up Dragonite International back in 2013. With the purchase of Dragonite, they also were buying the patents of Hon Lik, often considered the godfather of the modern electronic cigarette. The idea seemed to be that if they had his patents in their portfolio, it would give credence to the idea that others shouldn’t be allowed to sell the same type of ecig.
Well, that clearly hasn’t worked out thus far. The judges in the UK ruled that “the patent claims were anticipated by another Fontem patent and were obvious in light of a patent filed in the U.S.” Which is to say, they defendant (Imperial Tobacco) hasn’t proven that they have a patent which clearly separates them from the ecig pack. There may be differences, but not enough to restrict others from selling their own ecigs.
Do Patent Battles Matter?
This may all be gibberish to most of us, so the real question is does any of this even matter. It’s a valid question, because at the end of the day, all we really want is to be able to purchase from the same top ecig brands we already purchase from. This battle of heavyweights isn’t our terrain, but should it be something to be concerned over?
The short of it is that, no, vapors don’t really have anything to worry about. As we wrote about in this blog, “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.” It’s true, in the immediate and even long term there really isn’t much out of these patent wars that will affect the average consumer.
Still, it’s never a bad thing when a patent is struck down. The fact is, Imperial Tobacco could have set some sort of a precedent and at least attempted to stop others from putting out similar products. They would have been surpassed quickly enough anyway, but seeing the reaction of the court itself is valuable. We want to see courts that allow for innovation and won’t side with big corporations looking only to protect their interests.
Now in this case it was a big corporation against another big corporation! Plus, it wasn’t even in an American court. But there still is something to be said about the way things are going in the electronic cigarette industry and the types of decisions that could help all businesses. We all want to see ecigs reach new heights, and it’s going to take innovation from all sorts of places to reach that place. So kudos to the UK courts on this one, and we’ll keep watching and waiting for the next episode of the ecig patents saga. Stay tuned!