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Legal Maneuvers Among Independents

The independent vaping supplies industry seems intent on proving that Big Tobacco isn't the only commercial arena where competition engenders lawsuits. The vaping community is up in arms about a series of lawsuits filed by Nicopure Labs against smaller e-liquid firms.

At issue is Nicopure's trademark on the brand name “EVO” -- Nicopure filed suit last month against Atomized Labs (Evolve E-liquids) and three other small companies (Advent Garde, Gabl Enterprises, and Jasper Technologies) that use variations of the moniker, on the heels of a lawsuit filed last September by Nicopure's parent company, Trident, against hookah concern Starbuzz Tobacco, and a counter-suit by Starbuzz.

Atomized Labs has shut down its Evolve E-liquids websites, which now feature the statement: “This site is unavailable due to pending Federal Litigation with another E-liquid company,” and a Reddit thread appeared with the title: “Evolve Eliquid shuts doors due to federal lawsuit.” The issue has stirred up quite a controversy on Reddit, the E-Cig Forum, and other forums. A number of vapers are calling for a boycott of Nicopure's brands, which include not only EVO but also Halo.

Since Nicopure is one of the larger companies in this market sector, the action is seen as an example of corporate bullying to the detriment of small companies. This cannot help but be reminiscent of the aggressive takeovers of e-cig companies by Big Tobacco in recent years.

A portion of the court document reads: “By willfully adopting and using its EVOLVE Mark, Defendant [Atomized] has held itself out to the world as the rightful owner of Plaintiff's EVO® Marks.... Defendant has ... also made material false statements of fact concerning Defendant's reference to itself as "EVOLVE" since it operates in a field where a reference to "EVO" refers to the Plaintiff [Nicopure].... Defendant's false statements have actually deceived numerous third parties or have a tendency to deceive a substantial portion of the marketplace.”

Nicopure's Jay Blazio (alias Johnny Blaze) has countered with a statement containing the following: “Although it may appear on your end that we are bullying a smaller company, we are simply trying to keep others from stealing the intellectual property we developed through years of hard work. We ourselves have been accused of trademark violations in the past through lawsuits, and we too were forced to make some very tough decisions. Those decisions were made based on a vision of longevity for Nicopure Labs, and we did not complicate the matter with slanderous comments about the other companies involved.... Longevity is not achieved through slander on the internet, but is achieved by operating within the rules of business that have been laid out before you and maintaining your integrity along the way.”

Be that as it may, other e-liquid firms are keeping their distance from Nicopure. Another Redditer has posted a list of companies not linked with Nicopure or its allegedly nefarious bullying. Meanwhile, a Redditer claiming to be an Evolve spokesperson has posted that, rather than spending money to fight the lawsuit, they will simply re-emerge under a different name. If they do so, the publicity over the issue, and their appearance as the underdog, is likely to improve sales.

So Evolve or its successor brand is likely to be a winner in this affair. This whole brouhaha illustrates clearly that vapers form a community sensitive to issues of business manipulation, a community that can play a role in outcomes when they feel their interests have been trodden upon.

Ken Edward of Atomized Labs is expected to issue a statement soon on, according to an article on that site.