Philip Morris Catches Smoke Shop Selling Counterfeit Marlboros.

NEW YORK, May 6, 2009 -- Tobacco giant Philip Morris brought a federal lawsuit today against a smoke shop and its owner located in Mastic, New York for trafficing in counterfeit Marlboro brand cigarettes.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York when Philip Morris determined that Tammy's Smoke Shop was selling counterfeit Marlboros. The suit names the owner of the shop, Tammy Edwards, as a codefendant.

According to the complaint, Philip Morris employs a firm that regularly purchases Philip Morris products from retail establishment around the nation. The purchases are then given to the Brand Integrity Department of Philip Morris's parent company Altria. Confidential and proprietary test are performed on the cigarettes to determine their authenticity. The Marlboro cigarettes purchased from Tammy's Smoke Shop are alleged to be counterfeit.

The results of these initially tests were confirmed when Philip Morris contacted the Suffolk County District Attorneys Office which sent uncover agents into the store to buy more Marlboro cigarettes which also tested as fake.

Willful counterfeiting can be prosecuted criminally under state and federal law in addition to being actionable under civil law.

Discovery in the case may allow PhilIp Morris to determine the identity of the counterfeiter by following the supply chain.

Philip has federally registered their trademarks in MARLBORO and MARLBORO LIGHTS in addition to the labels for these products.

Claims of unfair competition, false designation of origin, and deceptive trade practices appear in the complaint in addition to the claim of trademark infringement. Philip Morris is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in addition to destruction any counterfeit products and a permanent injunction to prevent further use of its trademarks.

If Philip Morris is successful in proving trademark infringement, they could recover defendants' profits and any damages sustained by the plaintiff because their trademarks are federally registered. I

In assessing damages the court may enter judgment for any sum above the amount found as actual damages, up to three times. When a court finds a defendant intentionally counterfeited a registered trademark, the court must, unless the court finds extenuating circumstances, enter judgment for three times such profits or damages, whichever is greater, together with a reasonable attorney’s fee unless the Plaintiff elects for statutory damages up to $1,000,000 per counterfeit mark per type of goods or services sold, offered for sale, or distributed.

Philip Morris could also be awarded damages for its other claims of unfair competition, false designation of origin, and deceptive trade practices.

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