Star Scientific, Reynolds End Patent Suit, Filing Shows

Star Scientific Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said they have settled their patent-infringement dispute over a way to reduce carcinogens in cigarettes.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed in documents filed today in federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland, seeking dismissal of lawsuits. The companies said the agreement “is not an acknowledgment of liability of any party.”

A federal appeals court last year left two Star patents intact while upholding a jury verdict that R.J. Reynolds, a unit of Reynolds American Inc., didn’t infringe them during the 2001 and 2002 tobacco-growing seasons. A separate Star lawsuit accused Reynolds of infringing the patents during later growing seasons.

Reynolds said in the filings that it reserves the right to rely on the non-infringement finding in any future legal actions.

Reynolds was asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the two Star patents. The justices had been scheduled to consider that bid at their private conference today. Instead, the two companies on Sept. 21 submitted a joint request that the appeal be dismissed, and the request was granted.

Bacterial Activity

Reynolds had argued in its appeal that the Star patents aren’t specific enough. The patents cover a curing process that prevents “bacterial activity” in tobacco leaves, resulting in the lowest levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines, according to Star.

Star said Reynolds used the technology without permission because the larger company was unable to achieve similar nitrosamines reductions on its own. Reynolds denied the claim.

R.J. Reynolds makes Camel, Winston and Salem brand cigarettes and is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Star Scientific is based in Glen Allen, Virginia.

The case is Star Scientific Inc. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 01cv1504, 02cv2504, and 09cv1411, all U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Greenbelt). The Supreme Court case is R.J. Reynolds v. Star Scientific, 11-1182.

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