Christopher Morcom QC relates the news:
An important matter, on which the Parliament voted, was an amendment to introduce a requirement for ‘plain packaging’ for tobacco products. To date, only Australia has introduced such a requirement; their law is now subject to challenge before the World Trade Organization, by five countries (Ukraine, Honduras, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Indonesia). The amendment was today rejected. This rejection is greatly to be welcomed. ‘Plain packaging’ requirements would be a very serious invasion of intellectual property rights, in this instance trade marks. Tobacco products remain legal products, and such requirements would have the effect of prohibiting companies from using valuable trade marks, for which protection has been legally obtained, and on which customers rely when making purchases. Registered trade marks, and the goodwill established by their use over many years, are undoubtedly property rights, and thus entitled to protection under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Art 17) and the European Convention on Human Rights(First Protocol, Art 1). The rejection of this amendment by the European Parliament should be heeded by governments, such as the Irish and UK Governments, and the Scottish Parliament, which are or have been considering the introduction of plain packaging requirements for tobacco products.
What the EU parliament did vote for, however, was that health warnings should comprise 65 per cent of the packet.
To my mind this reflects poorly on the former Labor government now revealed to be well to the left of even the EU. It also reflects poorly on the lack of protection Australia affords to intellectual property rights. I realise our legal friends don’t see it that way but there is a huge difference between what can be done, and what should be done. Coming up with ‘clever’ arguments that facilitates the state expropriating intellectual property is not economically wise.