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Tobacco pleads for pack delay

8 June 2011

CIGARETTE giant British American Tobacco Australia has demanded a longer phase-in period for tobacco plain packaging, describing the start date of July 1 next year as “unworkable”.

BATA, the manufacturer of the Winfield, Benson & Hedges and Dunhill brands, argues in its submission on the legislation to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes that “just single-brand pack changes can take many months to flush through the entire market”.

“To assume a total industry pack change will take less than 12 months to effect is unrealistic,” the BATA submission says.

The claim comes as Australia faces a backlash in World Trade Organisation forums over tobacco plain packaging, even before the measure becomes law.

The Dominican Republic has added the plain packaging bill to the agenda for this week’s meeting in Geneva of the council for TRIPS, the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

Related Coverage

TRIPS contains conditions for copyright, trade dress and trademark protection that member nations’ laws must meet.

The Dominican Republic is questioning plain packaging’s “compatibility with the agreement”, according to an agenda notice seen by The Australian.

Article 20 of the TRIPS agreement states the “use of a trademark in the course of trade shall not be unjustifiably encumbered by special requirements, such as . . . use in a manner detrimental to its capability to distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings”.

The WTO move comes as more US business groups write to the Gillard government, expressing fear over the impact of plain packaging on the global intellectual property regime.

The National Foreign Trade Council, the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce have warned the proposals breach TRIPS, but Trade Minister Craig Emerson has rejected their claims

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