From a recent TRIPS Council meeting:
Australia’s plain packaging bill for tobacco products
The bill, first discussed in the last meeting, has passed the lower house and is now in the Senate, Australia reported. It is part Australia’s anti-smoking campaign. (See also this Australian government web page, which includes images of samples of the proposed packaging.)
Ukraine (represented by Economy Vice Minister Valery Pjatnitsky), and a number of developing countries (Dominican Rep, Mexico, Nigeria, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Zimbabwe) repeated their concern that the law will violate Australia’s obligations under the TRIPS Agreement by preventing cigarette and cigar companies from using their trademarks, ultimately hurting their poor farmers. Some argued that the plain packaging will make counterfeiting easier, and some said it will cut costs and lower prices, stimulating demand rather than inhibiting it.
Chile, China, Switzerland, India and the EU asserted countries’ right to use flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement for public health purposes, including tobacco control, sought more information and some of them urged Australia to ensure that its measures do not conflict with the agreement. Brazil stressed all countries’ right to adopt measures to protect public health, which it consider an important general principle for the relationship between intellectual property protection and health.
Uruguay, New Zealand and Norway supported Australia, which described how serious a problem smoking is and assured members that the policy has been studied carefully to ensure it does not violate TRIPS provisions and that it will be effective in reducing smoking. The World Health Organization described the serious global picture and said plain packaging is part of its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.