Latvians expressed their concern about proposed tobacco goods packaging

Authors: Ruta Olmane, Latvian Trademark and Design Attorney, European Trademark and Design Attorney, Lawyer, at METIDA, First Vice President of the ECTA, Mykolas Jakutis, Assistant to Attorney-at-Law at METIDA

book-83126_640Latvian National Group of International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI) jointly with Latvian Patent Attorney Association have sent letter to the Ministry of Justice of Latvia and Ministry of Health of Latvia. By this letter both association raise awareness of the protection and value of intellectual property rights and especially of trade marks and expressed their concern about some proposals for possible implementation of standardised packaging of tobacco goods.

It all started when Australia made a decision in 2011 to mandate plain packaging for tobacco products, a number of countries are now considering similar legislation. The rapid pace at which these developments are progressing warrants close attention from trademark owners.

On 14 March 2014 the Council adopts the revised Tobacco Products Directive, which entered into force on 19 May 2014 and will have to be transposed by the Member States within two years. Directive governing the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products in the EU. The Directive harmonises the rules for tobacco and related products sold on the internal market.

On September last year AIPPI Latvian National Group organized a discussion about the proposed text of Tobacco Products Directive. Representatives from Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health as well as many professionals of IP world were invited to this discussion. During the discussion it was stated that introducing of more strict rules and any limitation of legally obtained intellectual property should be analysed very carefully and assessment of such strict limitations as plain packaging should be done noting possible implication to IR rights.

In the letter both associations expressed their concern about the announcement by the Minister of Health of Ireland on 10 June, that the Government has approved the publication and presentation to Parliament of the Public Health (standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014. The Bill was presented to the Seanad (Senate) on June 11. Ireland has become the third country in the world and the first in the EU to introduce plain packaging legislation. Australia was the first country to introduce such restrictions, in December 2012 and now Ireland is joining them.

Furthermore both association express a great concern that Ministry of Health of Latvia has submitted the proposal of Public Health Guidelines for 2014-2020, where a proposal of introduction of standardised packaging was included without any discussion with the associations protecting intellectual property rights interests.

While the EU Tobacco Products Directive does not include mandatory plain packaging, it is possible that EU member states will seek to do so – and the UK, Scottish and Irish governments are all heading in that direction. These moves will be of concern for brand owners not just in tobacco but also in other regulated industries. Those most likely to see a drip-feed of mandatory packaging health warnings and branding restrictions similar to those seen for tobacco are producers of alcoholic beverages, fizzy drinks and food products containing fat, sugar or salt, which the World Health Organisation has stated are prime candidates for stronger regulatory controls. The pharmaceutical industry, as well as food and alcoholic drink manufacturers, could be under pressure from the spread of plain and standardised packaging.

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