Los Angeles – Lorillard, the company that owns the trademark rights to Newport Cigarette brand, announced last week that it won a lawsuit against the makers of a synthetic cannabis product called Newprot. The lawsuit was filed in 2010 in U.S. District Court in Virginia, and alleged that the knock off product infringed on Lorillard’s registered trademark. The Newprot product was sold in pouches that looked almost identical to Newport packaging. Lorillard sought an injunction to prevent the further distribution of the Newprot products and court related costs.
In its court documents, Lorillard argued that the name and packaging of the Newprot product caused substantial confusion among consumers who could easily mistake the two products. In fact, U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney ruled, “only minor, trivial differences exist between the instant trademarks such that they are virtually indistinguishable”. Because both products were used in connection with smoking and sold in similar channels of commerce, there was a high likelihood that consumers could assume that the two products were by the same company. Judge Gibney further determined that the actions of the defendants were not merely negligent, but were comprised of deliberate decisions to profit from the popularity and widespread recognition of the Newport brand name.
The defendants, Majdi and Mohammad Adujamous, own three Tobacco Zone stores in Richmond Virginia, where the Newprot product was distributed. The Newprot product was sold under the advertised product name “spice”, which is a product intended to be smoked like a cigarette. Spice is also sold under various product names such as herbal incense, potpourri or bath salts and is legally marketed in Virginia. Smoking the product produces an effect similar to cannabis and is made from spraying a THC-like synthetic chemical onto dried herbs and flowers.
Lorillard was founded in 1760 and is based in Greensboro North Carolina. As one of the oldest tobacco companies in the U.S., Lorillard markets cigarettes under the brand names Newport, Maverick, Old Gold, Kent, True, Satin, and Max. Newport is the cigarette maker’s top selling cigarette brand and comprises 12% of cigarettes sold in the United States every year.