On April 12th, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) ruled in favour of Healthier Choices Management (HCM), who filed the appeal after a district court ruled in Phillip Morris’s favour in a patent infringement case.
HCM had filed a lawsuit against Phillip Morris (PMI) for an infringement on its patent for an electronic pipe, U.S. Patent No. 10,561,170. The vape company said that the pipe induces a combustion, when PMI claims it is combustion-less product. A district court had ruled in favour of the tobacco company, even awarding it the attorney’s fees.
However, following HCM’s appeal, the CAFC reversed the district court’s dismissal of the original complaint, its denial of HCM’s motion to amend the complaint and the award of attorneys’ fees to PMI. However, HCM also asked that if the case be remanded that it be assigned to a different judge, a request which was denied by the CAFC.
In other news, last November PMI launched BONDS by IQOS and its tobacco sticks BLENDS in the Philippines. Just like other heated tobacco products, BONDS by IQOS heats tobacco instead of burning it, and delivers a tobacco taste without ash and less smell than cigarettes. The product is designed to deliver a variety of tobacco tastes, yet at the time of launch, BLENDS tobacco sticks will be available in four different flavours, including classic and menthol.
BONDS comes in four different colors, and when fully charged it delivers up to 20 uses. PMI’s Chief Executive Officer, Jacek Olczak, said BONDS by IQOS “represents another step forward in our ambition to replace cigarettes with innovative, science-based, smoke-free alternatives.” He added that this launch is the brand’s latest effort in its push to move towards its “smoke-free future vision. While President of PMI’s Philippine affiliate PMFTC Inc. Denis Gorkun, said that as the Philippine market leader the brand is committed to the country’s smoke-free future.
WHO report warns against Big Tobacco’s green washing
Meanwhile, a 2022 report co-authored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and STOP, a global tobacco watchdog, says that Big Tobacco’s ongoing efforts to appear sustainable and conscientious are nothing but a form of “greenwashing.”
“This kind of activity gives the impression that the tobacco industry is socially and environmentally responsible,” warns the report. “Yet this industry is causing an incalculable toll on health to smokers, non-smokers and farmers. And not only is tobacco harming humans, it is also damaging the environment.” The document goes on to call on governments to be aware and ban tobacco industry greenwashing, asking them to avoid partnerships with cigarette companies engaged in environmental activities.
In September 2017, one of the major tobacco companies and maker of Marlboro, Philip Morris International Inc (PMI), had announced it would allocate $1 billion to set up a foundation that will fight smoking, and then dispense a further $80 million yearly towards the project for 12 years.
While many anti-smoking experts were skeptical that the aim of such a motion was nothing but an effort to ensure the visibility and success of Philip Morris’ harm reduction product, iQOS. Renowned anti-tobacco activist Derek Yach, who had played a main role in the enactment of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, had accepted the position of President of the Foundation.
Can the tobacco industry present an opportunity for change?
At the time Yach had assured his peers that he had not “gone over to the dark side,” adding that his relationship with PMI is based on opportunity not trust. “I am not naïve enough to believe that Philip Morris is doing this because of the warm fuzzy feeling that they want to lower the death rates. No. What they want to do is have a product that is less risky and that makes them profits. That is the beginning and end of it.”
In the years to follow, other tobacco harm reduction experts have spoken up about the importance of working with the tobacco industry in the promotion of harm reduction, rather than excluding it, and considering their platforms and valuable resources an opportunity, rather than a threat.