In a stunning turn of events Herbalizer has gone from darling of the vape industry to shuttered company as a patent infringement lawsuit filed against them by Storz & Bickel looms; customers with warranty claims will likely have no recourse
Herbalizer, the San Diego-based vaporizer manufacturer that garnered industry accolades, consumer adoration and a cavalcade of headlines touting it as the best vaporizer in the world, has gone out of business, seemingly overnight and without informing of its vendors or customers. The company’s website is down, its social media profiles are dark and nobody is answering the phones.
An employee who was with the company until late May confirmed to us via email that they were indeed out of business and added that the main cause was a breakdown at the top. "It's very sad to see," he said. "But leadership is so important."
This recent turn of events represents a stunning descent for a company that was viewed as the Tesla of the vaping world.
The company’s shuttering likely means the end of the production and distribution of their popular Herbalizer desktop vape along with the host of accessories that company sold as enhancements to the main unit. In addition, it leaves current customers in the lurch, unable to repair and maintain their devices, which is a service that only the manufacturer had offered. It also means that there will be no entity to support and honor the device’s warranties.
Launched in 2013 by two engineers who boasted NASA credentials (Joshua Young and Bob Pratt), Herbalizer came to life as an ambitious start-up that aimed to provide legal cannabis users with a new and inventive way to consume legal cannabis. The device took nearly five years of research, development and tinkering, and it was build to serve an ambitious purpose: To change the way people vaporized cannabis.
According to founders, "the Herbalizer was designed to be unlike anything else...engineered to simplify, and dramatically improve the perception of vaporization. Because we’re convinced of the benefits of vaporization and that it should be shared. We know it really works. Herbie’s time has come."
Round and sleek and looking like something out of a space station the Herbalizer unit was unlike any vape on the market. Despite a starting price tag of $730 the brand and its titular unit quickly developed a following. This lead to early success, a high volume of sales and a lot of buzz. Things were going well.
Or so it seemed. There appears to have been a hidden narrative that played out behind the scenes. In September of 2015, two years after the launch of the company, founder Joshua Young was forced out of the company.
According to a long post he made in April 2015 on the popular vape discussion board “Fuck Combustion!” under the handle “@Engineer,” Young claims that he was the victim of a hostile takeover that resulted in him being forcibly ousted from the company he started.
I was fired from the company that I built, without severance. So there I was, suddenly without the company that I spent over four years building and with no income, just personal debt that I used to float the company.
According to Young, the company had recently been able turn a profit, which was what led to the board of directors turning on him. According to Young, he did not merely sit still in the face of this change. But, after introducing Bob Pratt, Herbalizer's co-founder and a fellow NASA engineer, as the new face of the company, the remaining assets of Herbalizer were auctioned off by a third party and bought by 1Ready, LLC.
They stole my company and want me out for cheap which I refused, and in the mean time they discovered that they aren't doing well without me. Enter overpriced attorneys and lawsuits, fraud allegations, etc.. On Friday last week (3 days ago) I received notice that the company has assigned its assets to a third party for auction, and at the same time "1Ready, LLC" made a purchase agreement for those assets…In this way they turned Herbalizer into a shell company, to remove all value of my stock and give to themselves any remaining assets (IP, product inventory, etc.).
In the three years since the changeover to 1Ready, LLC., the company has seen its share of trouble, proving perhaps that the claims Young made after his ouster may have been true. Some users even complained of units catching on fire, though this appears to have impacted on a small percent of the units.
In the absence of any proactive statement from the company about its closure it would seem likely that the final nail in the coffin seems to be a patent infringement lawsuit filed against 1Ready, LLC in February of this year by Storz & Bickel, the German brand behind the incredibly popular Volcano vaporizer.
Case number 3:18-cv-00422 in the California Southern district, also known as Storz & Bickel GmbH & Co. KG v. 1Ready, LLC, focuses on patent US6513524B1, described in patent documents as an “inhaler for production of aroma- and/or active substance-containing vapors of plant materials and/or fluids.” An illustration of the inhaler appears below.
Defending a patent infringement claim is a notoriously drawn out and expensive proposition. A final judgment on this case is expected in August, but speculation is that it either Stroz & Bickel succeed in winning a preliminary injunction against Herbalizer that forced Herbalizer to shut down or, more likely, the company’s leaders, facing the expense of a long legal battle they realize they won’t win, have decided to cut their losses and close up shop.
Whatever the reasons, the result is the same: Herbalizer currently ceases to exist. The website is down, it’s social media footprint has evaporated and, while the phones still ring, there is nobody there to answer calls. One contributor to Fuck Combustion! even went to the company’s offices in San Diego last week and posted a photo of the dark office.
This leaves customers without any avenue for customer support, and it means the company’s vendors have useless stock, since reputable retailers will cease selling the device, knowing now that the warranties are worthless. Still, people searching the web for the Herbalizer may stumble upon a newly formed URL, Herbalizer.net which is not associated with the actual Herbalizer company. Herbalizer.net contains what appears to be Herbalizer marketing photos and product but it leads to a page on the Namaste Vapes website, which is now returning a 404 error.
We will continue to update this post as more information becomes available. We are hoping to find out what the policy will be with regard to existing warranties and what kind of resources may be available in terms of maintenance and repair of existing units. We have been calling the main corporate phone number for a week, to no avail. Messages left on the voicemail have not been returned, nor have attempts to reach the law firm representing 1Ready LLC in the patent infringement case.