RJ Reynolds, Star Scientific Resolve Tobacco Patent Dispute

By Joseph Mandour on September 25, 2012

California Patent LawyerOrange County — RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. told a Maryland federal court Monday that it has settled Star Scientific Inc.’s long-running patent infringement case against it over a method of reducing carcinogens in tobacco.

The parties have reached a settlement of all claims and counterclaims in the case, RJ Reynolds said in its stipulation of dismissal. Both sides will bear their own costs and attorneys’ fees.

“This stipulation is not an acknowledgement of liability of any party for any claim or allegation asserted in this litigation,” the stipulation said.

The stipulation contained no further information on any financial component of the settlement.

On Friday the companies also filed a stipulation to dismiss RJ Reynolds’s pending petition for a writ of certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court. RJ Reynolds had asked the high court to overturn a 2011 Federal Circuit decision upholding the validity of Star Scientific’s two patents.

That same Federal Circuit decision also held that, valid though the patents may be, RJ Reynolds did not infringe them in the 2001 and 2002 tobacco growing seasons. Star Scientific also asserted claims that RJ Reynolds infringed during later growing seasons.

“Because of RJR’s continuing unlawful conduct, Star Scientific has continued to be restricted in its ability to commercialize and/or license its breakthrough technology, and has suffered injury to its business and property,” Star’s 2009 follow-on complaint said.

Star is the exclusive licensee of U.S. Patent Numbers 6,202,649 and 6,425,401, issued respectively in 2001 and 2002 to inventor Jonnie R. Williams and assigned to Regent Court Technologies.

The patents cover a method of treating tobacco to reduce the content of, or prevent formation of, harmful nitrosamines which are normally found in tobacco.

The method includes the step of subjecting at least a portion of the plant to a controlled environment capable of providing a reduction in the amount of nitrosamines or prevention of the formation of nitrosamines. The plant must be exposed to the environment for enough time to reduce the amount of or substantially prevent the formation of at least one nitrosamine.

The controlled environment is provided by controlling at least one of several factors including humidity, rate of temperature change, temperature, airflow, carbon monoxide level and arrangement of the tobacco plant.

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Posted in: Patent Infringement