Monday, March 14, 2011
Plain packaging, a new tobacco control tool that is currently being considered by a growing number of countries, mandates the removal of all attractive and promotional aspects of tobacco product packages. As a result, the only authorized feature remaining would be the use of brand name, which would be displayed in a standard font, size, color and location on the package. In opposing this new strategy, the tobacco industry is particularly keen in emphasizing both the ineffectiveness of plain packaging in reducing smoking rates and its incompatibility with international trademark-related provisions. In particular, the tobacco industry as well as other regulated sectors, such as food, alcohol, and cosmetics, believe that plain packaging jeopardizes their trademark rights and particularly contravenes several trademark-related provisions as enshrined in the TRIPS Agreement and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. This article, after introducing the reader to the genesis and rationale of plain packaging within the broader context of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, offers a detailed analysis of the compatibility of this new packaging measure with the international system for trade mark protection as enshrined in the TRIPS.