Tobacco Giant Takes on Government over Plain Cigarette Packaging

Added by on June 27, 2011

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is launching an action against what they call theft of their brand by the Australian federal government, while Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she believes her government can win the legal battle because it is “on the right side of the argument”.

According to Philip Morris, the commonwealth is effectively stealing the company’s brand and contravening a 20-year old bilateral investments treaty between Australia and Hong Kong.

However, Prime Minister Gillard said she is not intimidated by the tobacco giant: “We’re going to deliver cigarette packages in that drab green with no logos… We’re very confident of our position,” she told ABC Radio on Monday.

Anne Edwards, Philip Morris’ spokeswoman, is however equally confident. Speaking to Fairfax Radio Ms Edwards said: “By attempting to take our company property (brand) … it’s a very, very clear violation of the investment treaty that Australia has with Hong Kong.”

She added that if the Australian government decides to introduce plain cigarette packaging, tobacco companies should be compensated.

But according to Peter Gordon, a lawyer with extensive experience fighting cigarette companies in court, things are not that straight forward: “The suggestion that the commonwealth is trying to take away the property rights of tobacco companies is of course a farcical proposition… “

He added: “No one’s suggesting they’re not allowed to own these trademarks, they’re just suggesting they’re not allowed to use them in a way which improperly promote cigarette use among kids,” he told AAP.