25 May 2016Trademarks

INTA 2016: Food and alcohol ‘heading down same road’ as cigarettes, says BAT

A lawyer at tobacco company British American Tobacco (BAT) has said alcohol and food deemed to be unhealthy are “going down the same route” as tobacco, in a discussion centred around plain packaging laws.

Stuart Aitchison, intellectual property lawyer at BAT, said that although there were no laws in place yet, “all the signs were there” that other products could be subject to plain packaging laws in the future.

The talk took place on May 24, the penultimate day of the International Trademark Association's (INTA) annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Aitchison showed a graph revealing times and dates of new restrictions placed on products including tobacco and sugary food.

Dates included a 2007 ban on print advertising for alcoholic products in Russia and legislation rolled out last year in Thailand that introduced a requirement for health warnings on alcohol.

Plain packaging laws for cigarettes have so far been passed in the UK, as of last week, and in France, Ireland and Australia.

Describing what the panel called a “slippery slope”, Aitchison said: “This is the same regulatory road that tobacco started going down many years ago.”

On whether the legislation had stopped BAT from pursuing and renewing trademarks, Aitchison said it “had not as yet”.

“Tobacco companies are being deprived of their right. These marks have been around for an awfully long time and the goodwill built up will slowly fade away,” he said.

The audience was then asked for a show of hands on whether they thought plain packaging would extend to high sugar content foods and alcohol, with the majority of respondents agreeing that it would.

The INTA annual meeting ends today, May 25.

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