Philip Morris Stays on the Offensive

Just a week after filing suit against a New York company to stop importation of counterfeit cigarettes, Philip Morris USA has filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC) to stop illegally imported gray market cigarettes bearing PM USA’s trademarks, including the Marlboro mark, from entering the U.S.

“Our brands are among our company’s most valuable assets, and we take many steps to protect them,” said Charlie Whitaker, vice president of compliance and brand integrity for Philip Morris USA. “Today, we are asking the ITC to issue an order to block hundreds of Internet vendors from bringing gray market cigarettes into the U.S.”

The complaint alleges that Internet-based cigarette vendors are unfairly selling cigarettes bearing PM USA’s trademarks in violation of U.S. intellectual property laws and the Lanham Act. The complaint requests that the ITC issue a General Exclusion Order, which would require U.S. Customs & Border Protection to stop all infringing imports from entering the U.S., including infringing products sold by the 13 web sites named as respondents in the complaint and any other web sites engaged in similar activity. PM USA has also identified 177 additional web sites in its complaint.

This ITC complaint is the latest in a series of legal actions PM USA has taken to counteract contraband trade in cigarettes. The company pursues numerous strategies to address the sale of illegally imported, counterfeit, stolen and untaxed or under-taxed cigarettes. The company actively 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.

On Feb. 27, filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Central District of California against Nice Pak Products Inc. of Orangeburg, N.Y. The lawsuit is aimed at stopping the importation, distribution, and sale of counterfeit cigarettes and the unauthorized use of Philip Morris USA’s trademarks.

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