Philip Morris USA sues NY retailer over counterfeit Marlboros

Philip Morris USA sues over counterfeit Marlboros

RICHMOND, Va. — Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest tobacco company, is accusing a New York retailer of selling counterfeit cigarettes and illegally using the company’s Marlboro trademark.

Philip Morris, an operating company of Richmond-based Altria Group Inc., filed the federal suit in U.S. District Court in New York on Wednesday against Mastic, N.Y.-based Tammy’s Smoke Shop.

The suit follows a seizure of 184 cartons of counterfeit cigarettes Tuesday by Suffolk County police, the company said. Consumers had called Philip Morris with complaints about the cigarettes purchased from the shop and the company had agents buy cartons of the counterfeit product.

“The sale of counterfeit cigarettes undermines the value of Philip Morris USA’s brands and the legitimate channels through which our products are distributed and sold,” Joe Murillo, vice president and associate general counsel for Altria Client Services, said in a news release.

A phone message seeking comment from Tammy’s Smoke Shop was not immediately returned.

Over the last few years, the federal government and many state governments have increased taxes on cigarettes, giving rise to counterfeit or black market cigarettes.

Consumers who purchase the imitations are “likely to be confused and/or disappointed” when they intended to purchase genuine Marlboro cigarettes, the complaint states.

Philip Morris is asking the court to ban the company from purchasing, distributing or selling counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes. It also is asking for the company to turn over its profits from the illegal cigarettes, along with punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

The company said it has taken recent actions to protect its trademarks.

Since 2002, Philip Morris has filed lawsuits in New York alone against the owners and/or operators of 71 Internet sites, 21 defendants involved in illegally importing cigarettes and 139 retailers selling counterfeit cigarettes.

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