New British law demands that starting from May 2016 cigarettes be sold in plain packages only. These will not be displaying anything else than the gruesome health warnings of smoking and the name of the brand of the cigarettes written in small plain letters at the bottom of the pack, without any kind of logo. However, the tobacco companies will not stand for what they interpret as being a breach of their right to use their own trademarks.
Since the tobacco companies are legally allowed to use normal packaging for their cigarettes in the EU, they do not consider it legally feasible to be compelled to use plain unbranded packs in the UK, since it is a member of the EU.
Furthermore, they claim that this new measure will basically impeach the free movement of goods laws of the EU, as normal packaged cigarettes would become illegal in the UK in 2016. They say that the UK’s plain packaging law is precipitated and that the right course of action would have been to wait until a ruling of the European Court of Justice had been made.
They claim that while they acknowledge the UK’s right to implement public health policies, this regulation is exaggerated and it comes into conflict with the tobacco companies’ rights. Thus, they feel like they have to defend their rights and that legal action remains their only option.
“We respect the government’s authority to regulate in the public interest, but wiping out trademarks simply goes too far,” said vice president of Phillip Morris, Marc Firestone.
Phillip Morris International, which holds the right to many cigarette brands, including Marlboro, and British American Tobacco, the company behind Pall Mall and Luck Strike, have issued their formal complaints to the High Court of Britain.
If they are going to succeed in persuading the High Court that their right to use their own intellectual property in the packaging of their product cannot be disregarded, then they stand to win quite an impressive amount of money in payouts.
Since the worth of the tobacco companies in the UK raises up to £11 billion, the payoffs will have to be proportional and would therefore decimate government funds. The representatives of these companies say that if challenged, they will be obligated to fight back, but that they view this whole matter as avoidable and as a squander of the taxpayers’ money.
Other massive tobacco corporations are announcing that they intend to take legal action in this matter. Imperial Tobacco, the company that produces Davidoff cigarettes, has announced its intention to pursue these actions in March.
Moreover, Japan Tobacco international, that produces Camel and Winston cigarettes among others, has claimed that they will also be joining the tobacco companies’ fight against the UK law.
As a response to the accusations of the cigarette corporations’ actions, the British government says that it will not stand to be bullied. British Lung Foundation representative, Dr. Penny Woods has accused them of seeking profits at any cause.
She says that the public health authorities will not bow down to the demands of the tobacco companies and that there is precedent in their case. Australia has faced similar legal action in their fight for plain packaging and won and therefore, they regard this measure as being perfectly applicable in England as well.
It remains to be seen what the High Court will decide, but the fight is going to be extremely tense, as there is a lot to lose for both sides in the case that the ruling comes out against them. For now, regular packaging is still the legal form, but starting May 2016 there is a chance that this might change to plain packaging.
Image Source: telegraph.co.uk