Toronto, Ontario (AFP) – Canada’s biggest tobacco retailers are in a legal battle with e-cigarette companies that have sued them over the way they market their products.
The Canadian Competition Bureau has charged five e-cig companies – including Cigarette Depot, the world’s biggest e-cigs retailer – with anti-competitive conduct for allegedly misusing their trademarks and products, including “Cigarette Depot”, “CIG-Tech” and “Cigs and Cigarettes”.
The three major e-commerce companies – Canada Big Smoke, Canada Vapor, and Big Smoke Canada – have filed their own lawsuits against the five companies in Ontario Superior Court, accusing them of trying to “disrupt” their businesses.
Cigarettes Depot, which has more than 2,000 stores in Canada and abroad, says it has more e-cigarettes sold than any other retailer and that the company’s sales are more than three times higher than competitors’.
The lawsuit alleges that the five e,cig companies misused their trademarks in their advertising, marketing, promotions and website content, without giving the consumers enough information about their products or the goods.
“In order to continue to promote their products, they deliberately used words and images which were likely to mislead consumers,” the complaint said.
The five companies claim that they were forced to change their advertising and marketing materials because of the complaints.
The e-colas are available in Canada, the US, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Portugal.
Cigs-Tech is a brand that sells vape pens, e-liquids, and other vaping accessories.
The big five companies say that they are just following the rules.
They are not doing anything illegal, the complaint states.
The suits are similar to those brought against the tobacco companies, who were accused of misusing the names “Tobacco” and the “Toad” and for failing to properly register the trademarks.
The Tobacco Products Act, passed in 1986, was amended in 2015 to make it illegal to refer to tobacco products in advertising and for other purposes.
The government of Ontario, which had hoped to implement the law, said last year that it was considering how to deal with the new trademark issues.
The Ontario Court of Appeal said in January that the tobacco industry has failed to prove that the e- cigarettes are similar enough to tobacco cigarettes to qualify for trademark protection under the act.
The appeals court decision was a surprise, said attorney Jonathan Koeppe, the lawyer for Cigarette Dealers of Ontario.
The tobacco companies have filed a petition with the Ontario Superior Commissioner of Trade and Consumer Protection to have the cases dismissed.
Koeppe said the case could have serious implications for the e cigarettes market in Ontario.
“If they can’t trademark their products then the e cigarette market is basically screwed,” he said.