Today, the Commission published the legislative proposal that revises Directive
2001/37/EC on tobacco products. The proposed text provides that packages for tobacco
products must comply with a predefined format and shape, must contain a combined picture and
text health warning covering 75% of the front and the back of the package, general warning and information message on lateral sides of the package (with a specific size) and must carry no promotional elements. The adoption of full standardised packaging is an option for the Member States, provided it is compatible with the Treaty and notified under Directive 98/34.
As mentioned on several occasions in a number of previous statements and position papers (available on request from the MARQUES secretariat), MARQUES strongly supports public health objectives but considers that stripping trade mark
owners of the rights which have been gained through substantial investment is unjustified and against international rules on IP. The issue is a matter of concern to trade mark owners across the European Union, as well as those trading in the European Union, and trade mark owners would rightfully expect that any public health objectives ought to be properly balanced with an appropriate protection of their proprietary rights.
As a business organisation of IP rights holders, notably of trade mark owners, MARQUES is
very concerned over any legislation demanding the removal of brands, trade marks and logos
from product packaging. Any legal measures to hamper the use of trade marks in the ordinary
course of business should not be permitted. Restrictions on the percentage of packaging which may be used by the brand owner and restrictions on trade mark use on packaging on the same consumer product will limit or destroy market place choices for the consumer. Packages are indeed the most important displays and carriers of trade marks, since they provide a direct link between the actual goods and the trade mark which functions as indication of origin for such goods.
IP rights, notably trade marks, are a cornerstone of economic activity, providing significant value to their owners and the wider wholesale and retail economy. This economic impact reinforces the importance of guaranteeing that IP rights are effectively protected at both the domestic and international levels. The proposed legislative text directly impacts on the interests and rights of trade mark owners across the European Union. It will deprive one industry sector of its intellectual property rights and sets a dangerous legislative precedent for many other industries. It also undermines the intellectual property protection system as a whole by dismantling the value of trade marks used by companies that operate in the European Union.
Now, as the proposed text will enter into the ordinary legislative procedure, MARQUES calls
the Council and the European Parliament, as well as legislators, policy-makers and Parliaments of the Member States to carefully take into account the concerns of brand owners and protect the innovation.