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    Tobacco Suit Dismissed

    Philip Morris had been seeking to invalidate a patent held by Star Scientific.

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Star Scientific Inc. said a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Philip Morris U.S.A. seeking to invalidate a patent for a process of curing tobacco to reduce cancer-causing agents.

    Philip Morris sued seeking to throw out the patent, saying it covers a method tobacco farmers have used for decades. In a separate case in Maryland, Star Scientific is suing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. for patent-infringement, according to Bloomberg News.

    Star Scientific, a maker of discount, low-toxin cigarettes, said it doesn't plan to accuse Philip Morris of patent infringement until a "full evaluation of Philip Morris's activities." The judge agreed with Star Scientific's argument that, because there's no real controversy between the two companies, there's no reason for a lawsuit, Chester, Va.-based Star Scientific said in a statement.

    As part of its defense of the lawsuit pending in Maryland, R.J. Reynolds also is seeking to invalidate the patent. Brown & Williamson Tobacco, a unit of British American Tobacco Plc and the number-three U.S. cigarette maker, has licensed the technology from Star Scientific. New York-based Philip Morris is the largest cigarette maker, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based R.J. Reynolds is the second biggest.

    "The court did not rule on the merits of our claim," Philip Morris U.S.A. spokesman Tom Ryan told Bloomberg News. "We still feel very strongly that the patent for curing tobacco that was asserted by Star Scientific never should have been issued."

    Unless the patent is invalidated, Ryan said, "tobacco farmers would be under constant threat of litigation for using practices that have been known and used for many generations."

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