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Where do you stand on plain packaging?

Emma Barraclough

Are tobacco companies part of an old-school IP camp? What’s the correct car-related analogy for an IP right you own, but whose use is restricted? Are plain packaging rules akin to environmental regulations that prevent the development of land and thus reduce the value of a plot?

These are some of the knotty commercial and legal questions being discussed on a LinkedIn post. They are in response to a story on Managing IP about Philip Morris’s legal strategy to oppose the UK government’s plans to force cigarette makers to sell their products in standardised packaging.

Responses from lawyers and IP consultants highlight the split in the profession about the IP objections raised by tobacco companies in their fight against plain packaging.

“While I don’t believe smoking should be prohibited, it is a major public health issue. But not, in my mind, an IP issue,” writes Melbourne-based IP consultant Mike Lloyd.

“Trying to apply a property argument for basically spin-control is starting to push the comfort boundaries of disinterested professionals,” adds IP broker Lawrence Lau, explaining why he believes that IP organisations seem reluctant to throw their weight too firmly behind the anti-plain packaging campaigners.

But New York-based IP lawyer Barry Krivisky suggests that plain packaging rules amount to a total prevention of use of a trade mark. “If you have a registration for a logo mark, but are prohibited from using it, what besides a trademark office piece of paper or record do you own?”

This amounts to a taking by the government, he says, and tobacco companies should, at the least, be compensated for it.

Lau responds with a smoking-related metaphor: “Only if they want to first cough up the money to offset for the negative health externalities.”

You can join in the debate below, or on the IP Pro group on LinkedIn.


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