Altria can’t sell IQOS device in U.S. after ITC ruling stands
Biden administration did not interfere
Henrico County-based Altria Group Inc. and former subsidiary New York-based Philip Morris International Inc. can no longer sell the IQOS tobacco heating device in the U.S. after the Biden administration’s 60-day administrative review process concluded Monday.
On Sept. 29, the U.S. International Trade Commission determined that the IQOS device violated two of rival R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.’s patents, following its investigation in response to R.J. Reynolds’ submitted complaint. The ITC decision ruled that Altria and Philip Morris International would be prohibited from importing the heating articles and components, and it issued a cease and desist. The Biden administration did not change this decision after its review.
“While this decision will cause near-term disruption, we continue to see a large opportunity for IQOS and other FDA authorized smoke-free products in the U.S. over the coming years,” Philip Morris said in a statement.
The ITC began its investigation on May 15, 2020, after R.J. Reynolds, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco PLC, filed a complaint.
Altria and Philip Morris International began selling IQOS devices in the U.S. in October 2019 out of a mall storefront in Atlanta, later expanding its offerings into the Richmond and Charlotte, North Carolina, markets. Philip Morris International, which Altria spun off in 2008, introduced IQOS overseas in 2014, where it gained about 8 million users by 2019.
“We’ve been focused on our contingency plans surrounding sales and distribution and have been in communication with PMI on their domestic manufacturing plans,” Altria spokesperson David Sutton said in a statement. “We’re communicating with IQOS consumers regarding removal of IQOS and HeatSticks from the market, why this is occurring and that we’re working on contingency plans to make these products available again at retail.”
The device heats tobacco without burning it, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had allowed Philip Morris to market an early version as a “modified risk” product.
R.J. Reynolds has filed two claims with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over the IQOS system. The agency is expected to rule on the claims in 2022.