KT&G and iMTEK Engage in Lengthy Patent Dispute

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KT&G and iMTEK Engage in Lengthy Patent Dispute
KT&G's patent dispute with e-cigarette manufacturer iMTEK has entered its third year, with a court battle underway.

According to a report from Naver on October 22nd, the legal battle between KT&G and e-cigarette manufacturer iMTEK has been ongoing for a year and seven months. In March 2022, KT&G filed a lawsuit against iMTEK for patent infringement. Although both parties engaged in some additional negotiations after the lawsuit was initiated, the differences between them remained unresolved, leading to a large-scale public trial.


According to industry insiders, the Seoul Central District Court has heard details and key points regarding this case. KT&G has accused iMTEK of unauthorized filing for this patent technology, but argues that the technology should be considered as a result of contractual services.


KT&G has requested the transfer of six patented technologies from iMTEK, which include structures like fluid atomizer heaters, electric heating aerosol generators, particulate generation devices, and e-cigarette electric heating aerosol generators. These technologies were developed during the contract period from 2016 to 2018 and are rightfully owned by KT&G as per the terms of the agreement at that time.


However, iMTEK countered by stating that they signed agreements with KT&G that were one-sided in favor of the latter. Both parties have signed annual technical development service contracts, but there are differences in the specific details of the agreements. For instance, the 2017 contract established "joint ownership and subsequent payments," but starting from 2018, it changed to "in practice, all rights belong to KT&G.


iMTEK claims that there is no evidence of negotiated outcomes based on technical guidance, and as a result, the ODM procurement transaction has been severed. They further assert that KT&G must bear the responsibility of proving their compliance with the directions for technical development, but they have not submitted any relevant documents such as technical guidance manuals.


The patent dispute between KT&G and iMTEK has been ongoing for three years. Both parties have engaged in negotiations, but have failed to reach a satisfactory agreement, resulting in legal action. The next court hearing is expected to take place in January 2024.


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