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Concern over plain packs

Emma Barraclough, Hong Kong

Panelists at a session on plain packaging at the INTA Annual Meeting were united in their concern about the impact of standardized packaging on trademarks and trademark owners

“Plain packaging is the most restrictive subset of standardized packaging,” said Paul Kilmer of Holland & Knight. “The government takes over the whole pack and dictates how—or if—the trademark can be used.”

Trevor Stevens of Davies Collison Cave outlined Australia’s experience of plain packaging rules for tobacco, introduced over one year ago. “There was considerable political mileage in taking on big tobacco. It was a win-win situation for the government.” But he questioned whether the law met the TRIPS Agreement criteria of being necessary and justifiable, given that rates of smoking were already falling in the country.

Myrtha Hurtado Rivas of Novartis Pharma explained how strict regulations require pharmaceutical companies to provide patient information on their packaging. “That trade dress deserves protection,” she said. When it comes to new laws to regulate packaging, Hurtado Rivas wondered aloud: “Who is going to tell us how far is too far?”


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