Juul Labs sues Chinese counterfeiters illegally selling fake Juuls

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Counterfeit or the real thing? Depends where you buy it.
Counterfeit or the real thing? Depends where you buy it.

Image: Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

It’s a sue and be sued world out there!

In August, Juul Labs filed trademark claims against 30 entities in China selling counterfeit Juul products on Ebay. Now, the company has announced that a federal court granted the company a temporary restraining order over the accounts, and froze the counterfeiters’ PayPals. Take that, counterfeiters!

For Juul, this isn’t a simple matter of copyright infringement, though. The company is fighting to reduce teenage use of the product, especially in light of a FDA investigation into why teens love Juuls so much (and whether that’s Juul’s fault). And maintaining control over online sales that are age-verified is a crucial component of that campaign.

Legitimate Juul products are only available online through Juul’s website. However, as of this writing, there were over 2,000 listings for Juul or Juul-related products on Ebay. Any Juul device or pod you might see on Ebay or elsewhere that’s not Juul’s website directly comes from a counterfeiter, or an unauthorized seller. 

But selling Juul directly through the company’s own site isn’t just important to controlling the company’s cashflow, or even for verifying that the product is the real deal. Keeping Juul’s site as the sole online seller is crucial to ensuring that teens don’t purchase the e-cigs online. 

“Keeping JUUL out of the hands of young people is a priority for us,” Victoria Davis, a Juul Labs spokesperson told Mashable over email. “We have a strict and industry-leading age-verification process on our Web site so no one under the age of 21 can access JUUL. However, counterfeiters do not utilize the same type of age verification systems, which may enable minors to purchase products.” 

Juul’s site requires users to register with their social security numbers in order to verify that they’re over 21. So circumventing Juul’s commerce system means that the counterfeiters are actually undermining the company’s very intentional efforts to keep the cute lil’ vapes out of the hands of kids.

Juul is going after the counterfeiters through the legal system, as well as directly with sales platforms like Ebay and Amazon. But Davis described the hunt for counterfeiters as a “challenge” because the sellers can easily make new profiles. That isn’t deterring Juul, though, since more counterfeiters are popping up as the company grows.

“The prevalence of counterfeiters has increased dramatically over the last year consistent with JUUL’s rise in the marketplace,” Davis said. “The process of tracking and identifying the culprits of counterfeit products is time intensive. We have dedicated resources to this initiative to ensure these products stay off the market and out of hands of underage users.”

In other words, Juul’s attempts to go after counterfeiters is like USB-vape whack-a-mole. And the nicotine habits of kids are on the line. 

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