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Electronic Smokes Spark Legal Fire

LAS VEGAS (CN) - A "battery-powered microelectronic alternative smoking device" that "mimics the process of smoking" has three companies embroiled in a nasty dispute in Federal Court. Sottera Inc. claims Ruyan America and Nathan & James Group backed out of a deal to buy Sottera's NJOY electronic cigarettes, then bought electric smokes from a Chinese company and defamed Sottera by accusing it of selling knock-offs of its own product.

Sottera claims it has two U.S. patents pending, and that Ruyan advertises its electronic smokes as patented too, without stating that the alleged patents are Chinese. Nathan & James is Ruyan's American distributor, according to the complaint.

Sottera wants punitive damages for defamation and unfair competition. It is represented by Karen Sepura with Weiss & Moy of Scottsdale, Ariz.

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