E-cigarettes and patents
How were e-cigarettes first patented?
The US patent for a smokefree cigarette is US32000819. It was filed by inventor Herbert A Gilbert, who lived in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Products such as inhalers and vaporizers have already been patented by this time, so the inventor could have chose to call it an improved inhaler or improved vaporizer, but he didn’t. This wasn’t technically an electronic cigarette, but just the forerunner.
A contemporary magazine article calls it a battery-powered “cigarette”. Even at the time it was thought to have medical potential. But then again a number of products have been thought to medical benefits, placed in innovations catalogues and suchlike and research has proved these claims wrong.
The idea seemed to have come from Gilbert by comparing a fire with an oven-the first has the heat open, the second has the heat closed in. After building many prototypes he finally created a working example of what would later become an e-cigarette.
The latest improvement to this patent would seem to be giving it a reservoir (portion it is called in its patent) and improving the airflow.
Have the designs of e-cigarettes ever been challenged?
The first patent of an item which can be thought of an e-cigarette e cigarettes with nicotine. Filed in China, it was known as “a non-smokable electronic aerosol cigarette”-which hardly trips off the tongue. This was patented in 2003 by Hon Lik, a pharmacist.
I have a number of Chinese patents in front of me at the moment for various e-cigarette products. Unlike Australian patents (or English, or US) there is no picture of the product and only some handwritten Chinese characters at the bottom and a red stamp to make them look official.
These products may have been inspired by the electronic vaporiser in the 1927s. Electronics was a pretty new practice at the time, so it probably would have been harder to market than it is now.
E-cigarette companies can sue other companies if they infringe their copyrights – one of the most famous was Dyson suing Hoover for using some of their technology in their vacuum cleaners.
Imperial Tobacco sued Lorillard as well as few other e-cigarette companies for stealing their intellectual property.
There were several patents breached apparently-rechargeable electronic cigarettes, packs for cartridge refills and disposable e-cigarettes. Even the battery design of other companies went against the one that Imperial Tobacco owned.
The companies did not comment to the media about the breach.
There are always new product which change existing products and have not been ratified by the patent office-they are called “patent pending”.
Not everyone tries to patent their device-the internet for example is not patented. It can cost a great deal of money and if the production is an invention dead end it can prove useless. It is rather a gamble for the inventor or innovator.
It seems whenever you take a e-cigarette product-well any product really-you should be aware of all the products which came before, just to be on the safe side.
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