Plain packaging in Ireland: towards a total ban on cigarette brands?
Following the publication of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) on 3 April 2014, which entered into force on 19 May 2014, EU Member States have two years to transpose its provisions in their national legislation.
In the competition [though in a couple of days, all eyes will concentrate on this other competition] for promoting healthier regulations, Ireland is taking the undeniable lead by announcing today that its Health Minster James Reilly is seeking Cabinet approval for draft laws to compel tobacco companies to use plain packaging on all the products sold in Ireland, namely the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014. Said Reilly: “this is a significant step forward in our tobacco control policy and our goal of being a smoke free country by 2025.”
Politicians can also be harmful
to health: this is what
a plain-packaged one might look like
After much debate on whether the Directive should make plain packaging mandatory in EU covered by yours truly here and here, the TPD ultimately provides for minimum requirements such as the size of health warning on packs, etc, with the possibility for Member States to implement stricter measures (see here).
In the rest of the world, the US bill proposal for graphic warning labels was rejected as unconstitutional (in R.J. ReynoldsTobacco Co v FDA) and Australia’s existing PP laws are being challenged before the WIPO on the basis of infringement of IP rights contained in international treaties such as TRIPS, in particular Article 15(4):
“the nature of the goods to which a trademark is to be applied shall in no case form an obstacle to the registration of the mark.” [Plain packaging that denied right to use trademark at all may result in a forfeiture on "non-use" grounds]
or Article 20:
“the use of a trademark . . . shall not be unjustifiably encumbered by special requirements, such as . . . use in the manner detrimental to its capacity to distinguish goods and services.”
So what will happen next with the Irish proposal? The Directive provides that if a Member State introduces stricter requirements, the bill must be notified to the EU Commission and a committee which will control that the provisions fulfill requirements set forth in Article 24, paragraph 2, before the bill is introduced:
This legislative process will take a couple of months before the EU Commission issues an opinion. Meanwhile, France is announced to be the second EU country to propose plain packaging for cigarettes within this month, while it seems that the UK contender has pulled out of the race for the time being.
Thanks, Laetitia!Brand owners outside the tobacco field are concerned with PP legislation spreading to other sectors. For example New Zealand was considering that possibility for soft drinks and sugary foods in the next few years. Regardless which side one is on regarding tobacco and its industry, all IP owners should monitor closely the developments in “PP or not to PP” legislations.More from Ireland on the same subject herePackaging competition here