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    Imperial Tobacco Files Patent Suits Against E-Cigarette Competitors

    Subsidiary seeks unspecified damages in nine cases.

    LOS ANGELES -- An Imperial Tobacco Group plc subsidiary is taking legal action against electronic cigarette competitors, alleging they infringed on its intellectual property.

    Amsterdam-based Fontem Ventures B.V., a fully owned subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco Group, filed nine U.S. patent lawsuits in federal court in Los Angeles on March 5, according to Bloomberg. The company is taking aim at Lorillard Inc., NJOY Inc., Vapor Corp. and eight other makers of electronic cigarettes.

    It asked the court to rule that its patents were valid and for the defendants to pay as-yet unspecified damages.

    "The reason for filing this lawsuit is to protect our intellectual property and seek fair compensation for the infringements of our patents," said Marc Michelsen, director of communications and corporate ventures at Fontem Ventures.

    Electronic cigarettes have become big business as sales are projected to reach $5 billion in the United States in 2015, according to analysis by Bloomberg Industries.

    Imperial Tobacco, which bought Dragonite International Ltd.'s e-cigarette unit for $75 million in September, said it would launch two new products in 2014 as more smokers switch to e-cigarettes.

    Fontem Ventures also sued VMR Products LLC, Ballantyne Brands LLC, CB Distributors Inc., Spark Industries LLC, LOGIC Technology Development LLC, FIN Branding Group LLC, Victory Electronic Cigarettes Corp. and DR Distributors LLC.

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