An Imperial Tobacco Group Plc unit is suing a Lorillard Inc. subsidiary, NJOY Inc., Vapor Corp. and eight other manufacturers of electronic cigarettes in the U.S., claiming they infringed the group's intellectual property. Fontem Ventures BV, the unit of Imperial Tobacco Group in question, filed nine patent lawsuits in federal court in California recently, asking the court to rule its patents were valid and for defendants to pay damages, according to Bloomberg.
Analysis by Bloomberg Industries suggests sales of e-cigarettes may reach $5 billion in the U.S. by 2015. Imperial Tobacco, which purchased Dragonite International Ltd's e-cigarette division for $75 million in September 2013, has only had its own e-cigarette called Puritane on the market for a few weeks, according to The Financial Times.
"This is why [Imperial] are throwing the dice a bit, to fast-track themselves," Eddy Hargreaves, analyst at banking and financial services firm Canaccord Genuity, told the Times.
However, a spokesperson for Fontem Ventures said, "The reason for filing this lawsuit is to protect our intellectual property and seek fair compensation for the infringements of our patents."
The companies Imperial is suing all declined to comment when asked by the Times to do so.