New trial denied in tobacco patent lawsuit

A federal judge in Maryland has denied Star Scientific Inc.’s request for a new trial after the company lost a patent infringement case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Petersburg-based Star, a small firm that makes smokeless tobacco products, said yesterday that it will appeal a June jury verdict in Reynolds’ favor. The company, which had asked the federal district court to set aside the jury verdict, will now appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington.

“We are planning to share with the federal circuit court that we believe there was sufficient error that the jury verdict should be reversed,” said Sara Troy Machir, a spokeswoman for Star.

Star filed the lawsuit in 2001 against Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds, the nation’s second-largest tobacco company. The lawsuit claimed that Reynolds had infringed Star’s patents for a process designed to reduce some cancer-causing constituents in cured tobacco leaf. Reynolds countered that Star’s patents should not have been granted.

In June, a federal jury in Baltimore rejected Star’s claims, returning a verdict that the patents were invalid.

However, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office also is re-examining the patents at Reynolds’ request. Pending the outcome of the patent review and the appeal, U.S. District Court Judge Marvin J. Garbis stayed a decision on whether Star should pay attorney fees and other costs that Reynolds incurred as a result of the lawsuit.

In court filings, Reynolds has estimated its total costs in the eight-year legal battle at about $35 million. Among other costs, the company wants to recover more than $146,000 spent on witness fees, as well as more than $100,000 in costs for preparing and copying documents including 50,000 pages of jury-trial exhibits.

David Howard, a spokesman for Reynolds, declined to comment on the company’s motion for attorney fees and costs, but he said the company is pleased with the outcome of the jury trial.

“We believe the right decision was made, and that decision should be upheld on appeal as well,” he said.


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