10 December 2015Trademarks

English High Court hears plain packaging legal challenge

The English High Court will today hear arguments concerning the legality of the plain packaging law for cigarettes passed by the UK government earlier this year.

Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco, the Imperial Tobacco Group and Japan Tobacco International are claiming that the new law infringes their trademark rights.

The six day hearing begins today, December 10.

The law, which will go into effect in May next year, requires all tobacco products to be sold in ‘dull brown’ packaging with the name of the brand printed in a standardised typeface. Logos will be replaced with images showing the effect that smoking has on an individual’s health.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be exempt from the law.

The UK government approved the legislation in March, but the tobacco companies filed their complaint at the high court in May  arguing that the law “unlawfully deprives” the companies of their trademark rights and “obstructs the free movement of goods through means that are neither necessary nor proportionate to achieving the UK government’s public health objectives”.

Meanwhile, PMI is waiting on a decision from the Court of Justice of the European Union concerning the legal standing of the EU Tobacco Products Directive, which was passed in April 2014.

The directive allows EU member states to introduce plain packaging legislation for cigarettes in “duly justified circumstances”, but PMI has argued that the legislation breaches its intellectual property rights.

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