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Is a Tobacco Giant trying to take over the Vape Pen Market?

Altria, the subsidiary of tobacco giant Philip Morris, whose $ 1.8 billion investment in a cannabis company was announced Friday, has been patenting dozens of devices that can be used to consume marijuana, a review of public documents on Den The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows.

Altrias patents and patent applications bear one of several generic descriptions, including "electronic cigarette", "electronic smoking article", "e-vaping" unit and "electronic weapon equipment". [19659003] "They see a decline in the tobacco industry and they see this humongous upside in the cannabis industry."

Michael Cohen, Intellectual Property Attorney

Many of them have striking similarities to turning pens and other devices that used to consume cannabis already on the market, according to patent attorneys and an independent product manufacturer who underwent patent applications at Leafly's request News.

Exactly what Altria plans to do with its new intellectual property is uncertain. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. But intellectual property experts noted that the number and breadth of the involved patents means that Altria could think of charging competitors license fees or knocking them out of the market altogether.

"It's clear they're making a game on the evaporator market," said Larry Sandell, a Washington-based patent attorney. "This would be a good way to gain dominance in that market."

"They definitely have force to sue people for patent infringement and try to knock others out of the market, "he added." I can not say if it captures most of what's on the market without looking at each patent but [the number of patents] tells me that they invest significant resources and make a really strong game here. "

Patent No. 10399322:" US Patent and Trademark Office "

In general, companies use patents either to secure license fees from other entities or to seek legal remedies from companies using their patented technology without permission. In order for a patent to be enforceable and thus worth its owner, it must survive any challenges that arise in an application. Issues can be long and costly attempts, usually made by large companies with deep pockets.

Taken in its entirety with Altrias recent investment in a Canadian cannabis producer and its former patent in a terpen-producing plant, Patent Difference looks exactly like a company wishing to spell a claim in the marijuana industry, would do, observers said.

"I think it's certainly an indication" of the company's intentions, "said Nicole Grimm, a Chicago-based patent attorney.

"I do not know if a company with patents wide enough to cover tobacco, cannabis and herbal type devices," she added. "These patents have existed for a while, and there is a possibility that some of them may expire."

At an investor conference in Boston this harvested, Altria leaders said the company "explores our opportunities" in marijuana rooms.

"As you know, cannabis remains illegal under federal law and we intend to continue to comply with federal law," said Murray Garnick, CEO and Advocate General. "Having said that, we investigate our alternatives, and we are aware of the possibility that cannabis can no longer be illegal under federal law."

Although none of the device's patents secured by the company mentions the words "cannabis" or "marijuana", patent attorneys and product developers who were interviewed for this article said that Altria's patents are wide enough – and there are enough of them – for the company To potentially capture as intangible assets many popular cannabis vaporizers on the market.

On the policy no longer

In combination with Altrias $ 1.8 billion in Cronos, a licensed cannabis producer in Canada, the patent application proposes that Altria for years laid the foundation for a bold and broad requirement for a large proportion of the growing legal marijuana market.

"They see the market," said Michael Cohen, a lawyer in Los Angeles, who was considered by the patent manager. "They see a decline in the tobacco industry and they see this humongous upside in the cannabis industry."

Although cigarette consumption is even falling in the US, tobacco sales have remained remarkably stable. Altria's revenues have fluctuated around $ 25 billion over the last three years, according to market data.

"It's clear they're making a game on the vaporizer market."

Larry Sandell, Patent Attorney

Recent Trends, however, can spell future problems for the tobacco industry. Even with the well-known popularity of e-cigarettes, including the popular JUUL device, developed by a San Francisco-based company that initially developed vaporizer's design for marijuana-based consumption of tobacco products among young people, has steadily decreased over the past decade, based onward to data from the disease control centers.

According to an online database held by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Altria has 41 patents for devices that can be used to "evaporate" a material, according to the patent specifications.

The applications were filed as early as 2013, showing record show. The first patent was issued in 2013; The latest was issued December 4, 2018.

Patent No. 10,143,240: "E-wiping device having a section with a removable insulator between electrically conductive and passive elements" (19659008) The company has Also 51 other patent applications for "vaporizers" and another 70 applications for devices that can "evaporate" a substance finds Leafly's review.

Vaporizers consist of a battery that produces heat and a device, such as a coil that supplies as heat to a tank or container that is filled with some vaporizable material, whether it is a solid or liquid. In its simple design, the devices in Altria's patents are "product agnostic," said Sandell. "They do not care what you put in them."

However, patent examiners will ensure that existing devices used for cannabis, currently available on the web and in most smoking stores in urban areas, with or without legal marijuana, are similar to Altria patented devices. And ultimately they could cost the producers.

"Cannabis guys simply used [existing] e-cig devices with their oil, and it worked only for the most part," said Dan Fung, a New York-based hardware that has applied for a patent on a evaporator that takes two cartridges at one time (and thus hopes he is different from Altra's patents to be considered his own intellectual property).

Other marijuana makers, Fung said, "are likely to have tons of problems facing [Altria’s] archives that appear widely written enough to lead to problems for cannabis vape IP archiving."

One Leading vaporizer brand, Pax, has patents on three versions of its proprietary devices meant to vaporize cannabis flower. But the company's popular Pax Era, which evaporates cannabis concentrate, is not mentioned on the company's IP page. Pax refused to comment on this story.

& # 39; Capture the Market & # 39;

Like the rapid increase in e-cigarettes popularity, it is considered to be the fastest growing part of estimated to evaporate cannabis oil by most market observers. $ 19 billion marijuana market.

"The company that will bring the first smoking gear to mariahuana, be a cigarette or other shape will catch the market."

Confidential 1969 Letter to Philip Morris

In recent years, vaporizers have become acquainted with celebrities and events, including actress and wellness entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow, who has the Goop brand devoted to several different vaporizer brands .

Meanwhile, large alcoholic beverages, such as Constellation Brands and Molson Coors, have already made major investments in listed listed companies in Canada. Even Coca-Cola has shown interest in being involved. In contrast, tobacco companies, including Altria, who have brands like Marlboro, Nat Sherman and Black & Mild, disregarded the cannabis industry – at least publicly.

However, a closer look shows that Altrias patent flurry is not completely unprecedented. In 2016, it was reported that the company invested $ 20 million in an Israeli company, Syqe, which makes 3D-pressure inhaler to consume cannabis. [19659010] Altria also owns special plant technology, which has secured a patent for "terpenoid-producing plant. "Terpenoids, or terpenes, are essential oils in plants that give them unique taste and taste. In cannabis, terpenes are increasingly meant to modulate marijuana effects on body and mind.

It was probably not a conscious choice for Altria to mention cannabis especially in patents because they do not want to reveal themselves as a company involved in the marijuana or cannabis industry, "said Cohen, Los Angeles-based intellectual property lawyer. "But they clearly expect in the future that there will be a move in what federal ban will go away and they get up for it. It's quite obvious that they do."

Other hints sprinkled in Altria & # 39 ; s patented language experts consulted for this article to believe that Altria's technology could capture popular marijuana consumables, they said.

Patent No. 10,093,058: "Patent and Trademark Office Methods"

In addition to liquids containing nicotine, Altria's patented devices can be used to consume "a non-tobacco material and / or can be nicotine-free "according to a description found in several of the patents. "For example, the fluid can include water, solvents, ethanol, plant extracts and natural or artificial flavors."

Such a description will apply to cannabis vape pencils, which usually run between $ 40 and $ 60 averaged and contain a plant extract cannabis oil – as well as any remaining solvents and cannabis pennies for flavor.

Altria has a huge claim for intellectual property rights. According to its latest annual report, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company has 7,800 registered patents and 7,700 pending patent applications, including vaporizer technology.

And the desire to patent cannabis-related consumer products appears as generations old. 19659005] As early as the late 1960s and early 1970s, Philip Morris leaders have eyed marijuana as a potential growth opportunity. In a confidential 1969 letter to Philip Morris research laboratories, Alfred Berger, a professor who monitors Phillip Morris Fellowship in Chemistry at the University of Virginia wrote: "The company that will take out the first smoking equipment for marijuana, be cigarette or other shape will capture market and be in a better position than its competitors to satisfy the legal public demand for such products. "

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