phillip morris sues internetbased vendors

New lawsuit attacks the sale of untaxed, imported cigarettes.

Philip Morris USA has filed two lawsuits in federal court against Internet site operators engaged in the sale of illegally imported cigarettes bearing Philip Morris USA’s trademarks, including the Marlboro mark.

“Philip Morris USA will protect our brands and the law-abiding businesses that sell them from unfair competition,” said Charlie Whitaker, vice president, compliance and brand integrity, for the company. “We do not want our trademarks misused and do not want our brands associated with illegal activity.”

The lawsuits allege that the websites are selling cigarettes that have been imported in violation of the Imported Cigarette Compliance Act of 2000. In some instances, the defendants have also made false statements about the legality of these sales. The Internet-based cigarette vendors named in this lawsuit fail to comply with applicable tax laws, and the federal Jenkins Act, which requires Internet cigarette retailers to report all sales to the purchaser’s home state taxing authority.

The suits, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, name as defendants the owners or operators of www.paylessmoke.com and www.cigmall.net, as well as a number of related websites.

Philip Morris USA has been involved in a number of strategies attacking the sale of illegally imported, counterfeit, stolen and untaxed or under-taxed cigarettes. The company supports the efforts of authorities to enforce laws related to cigarette trade; advocates for enhanced federal and state legislation to address the sale of contraband cigarettes; and pursues litigation or other company actions against those who undermine law-abiding wholesalers and retailers.

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