Big tobacco warns on trademarks

Chris Papadopoullos
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AN EXTENSIVE list of business representatives from across the globe have written to the govern­ment, arguing that rules mandating plain packaging for cigarettes violates intellectual property rights.

“There are ways to regulate effectively in the public interest. Mandating destruction of intellectual property is not among them, and we urge governments to forego it,” the group wrote in a letter to HM Treasury and the European Commission.

The letter explains that a plain packaging ruling on cigarettes could go against terms agreed to in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights and the Paris convention on industrial property.

“Such measures should be consistent with fundamental tenets of law and international legal obligations. They should be proportionate, evidence-based and effective in achieving a specific purpose. They should be adopted after sober deliberation and careful consideration of the potential for unintended consequences,” the letter said.

“Plain packaging rules that mandate trademark elimination do not meet these standards.” The letter is signed by more than 70 business groups – mostly chambers of commerce.

“Smoking is the greatest prevent­able cause of death in the UK and Sir Cyril Chantler’s independent review found evidence of the public health gains to be achieved from standardised packaging,” a spokesperson from the department of health said. “We held a consultation on proposals to intro­duce the regulations and are consid­ering all aspects of the policy before making a final decision.”