The Feud: Imperial Tobacco vs. Philip Morris

Two tobacco giants square off over the Marlboro brand.


THE CONFLICT: Although Philip Morris controls the Marlboro brand almost everywhere in the world, it foolishly sold the Canadian rights to Imperial in the 1930s. Unable to regain control, Philip Morris has long sold cigarettes in Canada packaged in Marlboro’s iconic “red roof” design, but under names such as Matador and Maverick. In 2006, it began selling red-roof packages with no name whatsoever.

THE OUTCOME: Now that retailers are required to hide their cigarettes, forcing customers to ask for brands by name, Philip Morris’s no-name trick began to confuse customers who weren’t sure what they’d get when they asked for Marlboros. In June, a federal judge found the no-name product to be in violation of Imperial’s Canadian trademark, and reaffirmed that Imperial’s Marlboro packaging did not infringe Philip Morris’s copyright.