Humidification company Boveda Inc., has won its patent litigation case. Two of its major patents for humidity control were challenged by Holts Cigar Holdings (owners of Ashton cigars) in 2015. Last month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled in favor of Boveda.
"Holts filed a petition with the patent office saying that our patents shouldn't be allowed," said Sean Knutsen, president and CEO of Boveda, to Cigar Aficionado. "They built a case trying to pick apart the patent."
Boveda has made its name in the cigar industry with its humidity packs—handy, two-way humidity control packets that can be easily placed in sealable bags to provide adequate, portable humidification for cigars over specified periods of time. In 2010, Ashton took over distribution of Boveda's humidification products, but that partnership was dissolved in 2015.
The patents in question were patent 178 and patent 026. Patent 178 protects the technology behind the membrane that allows vapor to come in and out of the packet, thus enabling portability. Patent 026 concerns the saline solution and its specific viscosity.
"These two patents together are the foundation on which our humidity company is based," Knutsen said.
Holts filed the challenges to the patents in September 2015, but the litigation ended on January 3 when a panel of administrative judges determined that the petitioner (Holts) "has not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that any of the challenge claims are unpatentable."
Holts has the right to appeal the decision, though it isn't clear whether or not the company will. Emails to Holts regarding the outcome of this case were not returned.
The packets operate on a saturated salt solution where different salt crystals maintain different levels of humidity.
"We can't patent a salt solution," said Knutsen, "but we can patent the ability to make it portable. It's simple but elegant technology."
This article first appeared in the February 7 edition of Cigar Insider.