Philip Morris USA Sues Websites and Retailers Selling Counterfeit Cigarettes to California Consumers

Philip Morris USA (PM USA) filed lawsuits yesterday against seven China-based online retailers for selling versions of the company’s Marlboro® brand cigarettes to California consumers — the first time a U.S. company has sued a China-based website for selling cigarettes to American consumers. PM USA also filed suit against eight retailers who recently sold counterfeit versions of the company’s Marlboro® brand cigarettes to Los Angeles-area consumers. These lawsuits are part of the company’s on-going efforts to stop the sale of cigarettes and the unauthorized use of PM USA’s trademarks.

PM USA believes that counterfeit cigarette traffickers have established a foothold in the Los Angeles area, and that today Los Angeles is one of the top two markets for counterfeit cigarette activity in the U.S. The actions and lawsuits are the culmination of a several month investigation involving the LA County Sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies to address the sale of counterfeit Marlboro® cigarettes in the Los Angeles area. These actions led to 10 arrests and the seizure of more than 9,200 packs of counterfeit Marlboro® cigarettes.

“The sale of cigarettes defrauds adult smokers who believe they are buying genuine Marlboro cigarettes, resulting in significant lost revenue for the State, and is often driven by organized crime syndicates,” said Joe Murillo, vice president and associate general counsel, Altria Client Services speaking on behalf of PM USA. “The sale of Marlboro® cigarettes to U.S. consumers through China-based websites is an emerging problem,” added Murillo. “Selling counterfeit cigarettes is illegal, and we will continue to evolve our approach to take appropriate action to protect our brands.”

Since 2002, PM USA has sued more than 2,800 retailers in California for selling counterfeit PM USA-branded cigarettes, in addition to seven websites.


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