The lawsuits were filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Central Circuit of California. They are requesting a jury trial.

E cigarettes are battery powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge and create a vapor that is inhaled.

The lawsuits focus on Fontem s patents for rechargeable ecigs, cartridge refill packs, batteries and disposable ecigs.

Lorillard s LOEC Inc., which makes blu eCigs, NJoy Inc., Ballantyne Brands LLC of Charlotte, maker of the Mistic brand, and Vapor Corp. are among the defendants.

Gregg Perry, a spokesman for Lorillard, said the company’s policy is not to comment on pending litigation. Ballantyne could not be reached for immediate comment.

Not included among the defendants are the ecig subsidiaries of Reynolds American Inc. and Altria Group Inc., although Fontem listed five doe defendants in its lawsuits. Altria and Reynolds have developed internal ecig technology.

Blu eCigs and NJoy hold together about 70 percent of the U.S. e cig market share.

The popularity of ecigs is surging as the industry, advocacy groups and consumer awaits potential Food and Drug Administration regulations that were expected since last fall. Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog estimated there was $2 billion in overall ecig revenue last year. She projects up to $10 billion by 2017.

Fontem said it obtained patents on its technology in February 2013.

Among Fontem s complaints is that blu eCigs say its cartridges are designed to be used only with your blu electronic cigarette and should not be used with any other device or for any other application.

The plaintiffs said they are entitled to unspecific monetary damages. Defendant s continuing infringement has inflicted and, unless restrained by this court, will continue to inflict great and irreparable harm upon the plaintiffs, it said.

Herzog has estimated Reynolds will have $4 billion in revenue from e cigs in 2021, compared with $3.9 billion from conventional cigarettes. It plans to launch its Vuse ecig nationwide in the second half of the year. It is in test markets in Colorado and Utah.

The expectation among analysts and some industry officials is that conventional adult smokers will switch solely to ecigs or choose both and smokeless tobacco products as options.

Herzog forecasts similar trends for Altria and Lorillard, with all three manufacturers having about a 50 percent decrease in conventional cigarette revenue by 2023.

Herzog projects Altria, Lorillard and Reynolds will each have about a 25 percent e cig market share in 2013.

That’s a significantly more competitive marketplace than currently exists with conventional cigarettes, where Altria holds a 47.3 percent market share, while Reynolds has 23.5 percent and Lorillard 14.5 percent.


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