Government could breach IP laws by unbranding cigarettes

LONDON - The British Brands Group has warned that the government may be in breach of intellectual property laws if it carries out proposals to remove branding and logos from cigarette packets.

A report in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday suggested that the health secretary Andy Burnham is considering the move as part of his plans to halve the number of smokers in Britain by 2020.

Burnham is 'looking closely' at proposals to introduce plain packs that would just show the text of the brand of cigarettes, which, it has been suggested, could help reduce the misconceptions about the relative risks of different brands, and increase the effectiveness of health warnings.

However a spokesman for the British Brands Group, the organisation dedicated to championing brands in the UK, said: "The government could run into trademark problems.

"Companies like Rothmans have invested a lot in building up a particular heritage or brand positioning, and by simply ignoring this the government could be in breach of intellectual property laws."

Critics of Burnham's plans have also warned that the introduction of plain packaging will simply encourage smokers to switch to cheaper brands, rather than get them to completely stop smoking.

The British Brand Group added: "Brand imagery on packaging encourages companies to invest in quality. Sweep that away and the market has a problem in how it works. It could even play into the hands of counterfeiters."

 

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