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RICHMOND, Va. -- Expanding on last week's announcement that the company had filed two lawsuits against Internet-based cigarette retailers, Philip Morris USA (PM USA) filed three lawsuits yesterday against 105 retailers that allegedly sold counterfeit versions of the company’s Marlboro brand cigarettes.
The lawsuits -- filed in federal courts in the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of New York and the District of New Jersey -- are an effort to stop the sale of counterfeit cigarettes and the unauthorized use of PM USA’s trademarks, the company stated.
"The sale of counterfeit cigarettes undermines the value of Philip Morris USA's brands and the legitimate channels through which our products are distributed and sold," Charlie Whitaker, vice president of compliance and brand integrity for PM USA, said in a statement. "Selling counterfeit cigarettes is illegal, and we will take action to protect our brands."
The suits are the result of PM USA's periodic purchases of cigarettes in different markets. PM USA shares the results of the purchases with law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, the company stated. Each of the named defendants in the suit sold counterfeit cigarettes during recent purchases in New York or New Jersey, according to PM USA's claims.
"We believe that the vast majority of retailers are committed to selling cigarettes legally and responsibly," Ross Webster, vice president of customer service and merchandising for PM USA, said in a statement. "We hope that these lawsuits protect retailers from unfair competition and encourage others to comply with the law."
PM USA said it pursues numerous strategies to address the sale of illegally imported, counterfeit, stolen and untaxed or undertaxed cigarettes. It supports efforts by authorities to enforce laws regarding cigarette trade. In addition, the company advocates enhanced federal and state-level legislation to address the sale of contraband cigarettes, along with pursuing litigation or other actions against parties that undermine law-abiding retailers and wholesalers, the company stated.