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INTA Board approves plain packaging resolution



Emma Barraclough, San Diego


The INTA Board of Directors yesterday approved a policy resolution from the Limits on Trademark Use Subcommittee of the Emerging Issues Committee. The resolution sets forth INTA’s position regarding restrictions on trademark use through plain and standardized product packaging.

INTA’s concern is with various governments enacting or considering enacting plain packaging legislation. The resolution says such legislation is detrimental to consumers, trademark owners and competition.

INTA’s position is that:

  1. 1) Plain and highly standardized packaging measures being considered or imposed by governments should be rejected or repealed since they violate various international treaties and national laws on trademark protection including provisions of the Paris Convention, the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, and TRIPS.
  2. 2) Governments should use less drastic alternatives to address health and safety goals, such as public educational campaigns which do not violate international and national law and expropriate valuable trademark rights.

INTA submitted an amicus brief in the cases pending at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Australia’s plain packaging legislation. So far, most of the debate around plain packaging has focused on tobacco but there are concerns the focus will be widened.

“The issue is not about specific products,” INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo told the INTA Daily News. “What is a concern is: where are we going? Today it is tobacco. Tomorrow it could be alcoholic beverages or confectionery. Any legislation should be in agreement with international treaties and should recognize the right of property in trademarks. Moreover, removing the branding could make counterfeiting easier.”

The INTA Board also approved another policy resolution yesterday—“A ‘Material Differences’ Standard for International Exhaustion on Trademark Rights.”

The resolution provides that:

  1. 1) National exhaustion of trademark rights in relation to the parallel importation of goods should be applied; and
  2. 2) In those countries that currently follow international exhaustion, and in which political or other conditions make it highly improbable that national exhaustion would be implemented, a “material differences” standard should be adopted in order to exclude parallel imports that are materially different from those products authorized for sale by the trademark owner in the domestic market.

The two resolutions were passed during the Board’s second quarterly meeting, in which it heard reports from various Board committees, including the Audit, Finance, Compensation & Benefits, Nominating and Planning Committees.


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