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Australian tobacco packaging law upheld

17th August, 2012

The High Court of Australia in its order dated 15-8-2012 has upheld the constitutional validity of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act, 2011.

The legislation mandates all cigarettes packets and cartons to be uniform or in identical colours with about 25% of the surface being available to  display company name, brand name and so on. It also provides for displaying graphic warnings referred to as ‘health warnings’ on the cigarette packets, below which the brand name and the details can be placed.  

Tobacco companies had challenged the law, among others, on grounds that it restricted the enjoyment of intellectual property rights in trademarks, logos and brand names. The issue was also debated in the TRIPS Council meeting earlier this year. It has been raised at the WTO by Ukraine. Honduras and Dominican Republic also voiced their opposition.

It remains to be seen how countries, like UK and New Zealand planning to introduce plain-packaging laws answer the question of intellectual property protection.

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