In 2012, the Australian government enacted legislation, commonly referred to as “plain” or “standardized” packaging, which bans trademarks on tobacco packaging and requires that all tobacco products be sold in virtually identical packaging. Australia enacted this legislation with the stated objective of reducing smoking rates. More than two years following its introduction, however, Australia’s plain packaging law has failed to yield any demonstrable results towards that objective.
A handful of other governments have recently enacted or are currently considering similar legislation, although none have yet implemented the policy.
We have developed a strong portfolio of trademarks to distinguish our products and convey their premium qualities. Plain packaging deprives consumers of this information and treats them as though they are not capable of making their own decisions. It also deprives us of the substantial investments we have made in developing our trademarks, and deprives our trademarks of their purpose by requiring our products to look the same as every other product on the market, regardless of their quality or other characteristics.
Philip Morris International respects a government’s authority to regulate in the public interest and supports regulations designed as genuine public health measures. Plain packaging is not one of them. Governments can and do implement effective tobacco control policies while at the same time respecting trademark rights. Plain packaging fails, however, to fulfill either criterion. It eliminates consumer choice, disrupts market competition, and deprives us of our intellectual property.
The legality of plain packaging is already under review in a number of forums and jurisdictions. While litigation is always a last resort, we have a responsibility to protect our trademarks and are prepared to defend our rights in the courts.