On April 9, 2020, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and its affiliates (“Reynolds”) filed complaints before the United States International Trade Commission (“ITC”) and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia seeking to stop Altria Group (“Altria”), Philip Morris International (“PMI”) and certain of their respective affiliates from importing and selling the IQOS heated tobacco device system. This system is a “heat not burn” device whereby the user inserts a disposable “tobacco stick” into an electronic holder and turns on the device, which then heats the tobacco stick enough to generate an aerosol but not combust the stick. PMI manufactures the system and holds a premarket tobacco authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), and Altria is the exclusive distributor for the system in the United States. PMI also has submitted modified risk tobacco product applications seeking FDA authorization to sell the IQOS system with claims of reduced exposure or reduced risk.
In its complaints, Reynolds points to at least five of its patents that are allegedly directed to “devices and components thereof that provide adult tobacco consumers with a smoking alternative to traditional cigarettes,” and claims that the IQOS system “knowingly and intentionally” infringes on these patents. In the ITC, Reynolds demands an investigation and hearing, followed by additional remedies if Altria and PMI are found at fault. In the US District Court for the Alexandria Division of Eastern District of Virginia, Reynolds seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief as well as treble damages.