[Ip-health] Tobacco plain packaging: cigarette companies lose Australian court case

Tahir Amin tahir at i-mak.org
Tue Aug 14 21:03:58 PDT 2012


Tobacco plain packaging: cigarette companies lose Australian court case

Victory for government will force manufacturers to remove branding and sell
tobacco products in generic green packets

Australia <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/australia>'s highest court has
endorsed cigarette plain-packaging laws that will force tobacco companies
to remove branding from their products.

Tobacco companies British American
Britain's Imperial
Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco challenged the laws in Australia's high
court, claiming the rules were unconstitutional because they effectively
extinguished the companies'intellectual

The court found Australia's laws to force companies to remove all branding
and sell tobacco only in generic olive green packets, which also carry
graphic health warnings, were legal and did not breach trademark rights.

The laws, the toughest in the world, are in line with World Health
Organisation recommendations and are being watched closely by Britain,
Norway, New Zealand, Canada and India, which are considering similar

The decision means that starting in December tobacco companies will no
longer be able to display their distinctive colours, brand designs and
logos on cigarette packs. The packs will instead come in a uniform shade of
olive green and feature graphic health warnings and images such as
cancer-riddled mouths and blinded eyeballs. The government hopes the new
packs will make smoking <http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/smoking> as
unglamorous as possible.

The tobacco companies are worried the law will set a global precedent that
could slash billions of dollars from the value of their brands. They argued
in court that they new rules violate intellectual property rights and
devalue their trademarks. The government would unfairly benefit from the
law by using cigarette packs as a platform to promote its own message,
without compensating the tobacco companies, they said. Australia's
constitution says the government can only acquire the property of others on
"just terms".

British American Tobacco spokesman Scott McIntyre said it was disappointed
with the court's decision but would comply with the law. "Although the
[law] passed the constitutional test it's still a bad law that will only
benefit organised crime groups which sell illegal tobacco on our streets,"
McIntyre said in a statement. "The illegal cigarette black market will grow
further when all packs look the same and are easier to copy."

The court has withheld its reasons for the judgment until later this year.

Tahir Amin
Co-Founder and Director of IP
Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK)
Email: tahir at i-mak.org

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