Association of Trademarks and Designs Rights Practitioners

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The Association of Trademarks and Designs Rights Practitioners (APRAM), or the Association des Praticiens de Droit des Marques et des Modèles as it is known in French, describes itself as an international Association for French-speaking specialists in industrial and intellectual property, in particular trademarks and designs. [1]

With more than 800 members, the association brings "together in-house intellectual property specialists, attorneys at law and trademark attorneys."[1]

APRAM describes its main purpose as being at the forefront of discussions concerning intellectual property and business law in France, Europe and the World.

Association with the Tobacco Industry?

In its submission to the UK Consultation on plain (standardised) packaging in July 2012, APRAM declared that "it is fiercely independent of the tobacco lobby and industry. Rather, APRAM defends industrial property as such and, in particular, the holders of trademarks and designs, whoever they may be.”[1] However, PMI disclosed that it was a member of APRAM in its 2015 EU Transparency register entry.

Sister Associations

APRAM is openly affiliated with a number of other associations that it refers to as its "Sister Associations", including the European Communities Trademark Association (ECTA), Beneluxvereniging voor Merken-en Modellenrecht (BMM), the German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (GRUR), MARQUES, and Union-IP. All of these associations represent their members’ interests in intellectual property issues. Together, these associations have lobbied in favour of upholding the intellectual property of tobacco companies.[2]

MARQUES lists three Transnational Tobacco Companies (Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco, and Philip Morris International) as members. PMI discloses on the EU Transparency register that it is also member of GRUR,[3] BMM lists three employees of Japan Tobacco International as members and ECTA admits that it accepts tobacco company monies as some of their members are in-house lawyers at tobacco companies. [4]

Against Plain Packaging in the UK

UK 2012: Shortly after the launch of the UK Consultation on plain packaging for tobacco products, a joint statement was issued by APRAM and its sister organisations in April 2012. The organisations argued that the proposed legislation would:

"adversely affect the markets, with harmful impacts on the economy as a whole as would be derived from escalating counterfeiting and piracy throughout the EU and worldwide."[5]

It also stated that:

"trademarks…are relied upon by consumers as signposts of genuine goods and services…Trademarks also indicate the source of goods and services to assure consumers on the quality of the products that they purchase or that they would consider purchasing. This fundamental function cannot be fulfilled if trademarks are not noticeable, or unavailable…would lead to consumer confusion and therefore diminish the goodwill acquired in that brand through considerable investment and effort over a significant period of time. In fact the inability to call for or recognize a brand also takes away a consumer’s freedom of choice."

The statement did not offer any evidence to support these concerns. Nevertheless, in its submission to the UK Consultation on plain packaging, Japan Tobacco International cited it as an argument against the policy.[6]

APRAM also submitted its own response to the UK consultation in July 2012. In its 15 page response, its two main arguments were that plain packaging:

  • Breaches Intellectual Property Law: APRAM stated that it had conducted a legal analysis of the plain packaging proposal and concluded that the proposal “would give rise to an unjustified and unjustifiable breach in the protective shield progressively put in place to ensure the protection of the rights of trademark holders.”[1]
  • Will Increase Illicit Trade: “Claiming that the elimination of all use of distinctive, decorative and figurative signs on the packaging of a product as coveted as tobacco would not encourage counterfeiting indicates a profound ignorance of the reality and networks of counterfeiting and illicit trade.”[1]

UK 2013: The sister associations issued a follow up to this statement in July 2013 reiterating their opposition to plain packaging. [7]

UK 2014: On 25 June 2014, in response to Ireland’s decision to carry forward plain packaging legislation, APRAM released another joint statement with its sister organisations and other affiliated intellectual property organisations. In the statement, the signatories expressed "great concern" over the Irish Government’s decision, stating that plain packaging laws "amount to an indirect legislative expropriation" of property rights and suggesting that implementing plain packaging requirements for tobacco products will only be the first of many such requirements for other "unhealthy" products.[8]

In closing, the signatories called upon the Irish Government not to proceed with the legislation and for other EU Member States to caution the Irish Government against such actions.

No factual evidence was quoted in the letter. Organisations’ affiliations with tobacco companies were also omitted; BMM, CSZV, ICC, MARQUES, and Unifab all have fee-paying tobacco company members, ECTA has members that are employees of tobacco companies, and Union-IP is a Sister Association of ECTA,APRAM, BMM,and MARQUES.

Against the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision

In March 2014, the EU adopted a revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). The revised Directive came into force in May 2014, with a requirement that the new rules be implemented by National law by mid-2016.

Although the Directive does not mandate plain packaging for tobacco products, it allows member states to proceed with such legislation.[9]

In a joint statement from APRAM, the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), BMM, Czech Association for Branded Products (CSZV), GRUR, MARQUES, Union des Fabricants (Unifab) and Union-IP, the organisations urged national member states not to introduce “any extreme legislation or policy options which will preclude, whether fully or in part, brand owners from the ability of making legitimate use of their trademarks, undermine the legal protection offered by IPRs and fundamental rights as required by plain or standardised packaging or measures tantamount to standardised packaging and may increase the prevalence of counterfeit and illicit goods.”[10]

EU Transparency Register

APRAM is on the EU Transparency register. The Association disclosed that, for the 12 month period between January and December 2012, it spent less than 50,000 Euros on lobbying activities, although the exact amount is not known. Public health is listed among its particular fields of interest. [11]

TobaccoTactics Resources

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Association of Trademarks and Designs Rights Practitioners. Response to the Consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products. 3 July 2012. In Documents tobacco communicated by Philip Morris 24 July 2012 [email from Lore Genand to Desislava Kadinova]
  2. APRAM, Activites, accessed April 2014
  3. EU Transparency Register, Philip Morris International Inc, Financial Year 01/2012 - 12/2012, accessed 25 March 2014
  4. ECTA, Joint Oirecachtas Committee on Health and Children. Pre-legislative scrutiny of proposed law for ‘standardised’ or plain packaging for cigarettes – ECTA comments, Brussels, 15 January 2014, accessed March 2014
  5. APRAM, BMM, ECTA, GRUR, MARQUES, Union-IP. Objection to the adoption of restrictive legislation or policy options frequently referred to as ‘generic’ or ‘plain packaging’, PR Newswire, 26 April 2012, cached August 2016
  6. JTI, Response to the Department of Health’s Consultation on the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products, 3 July 2012
  7. APRAM, BMM, ECTA, GRUR, MARQUES, Union-IP. Objections to the adoption of ‘plain packaging’ and excessive measures restricting normal use of trademarks. Joint Statement, 3 July 2013
  8. APRAM, BMM, CSZV, ECTA, ICC, MARQUES, Unifab, Union-IP. IP Associations’ strong concerns with the Irish Government’s decision to proceed with plain packaging legislation, ECTA website, 25 June 2014, cached October 2015
  9. Council of the European Union, Council adopts revised EU tobacco directive, 14 March 2014, accessed March 2014
  10. APRAM, ICC BASCAP, BMM, CABD, ECTA, MARQUES, Unifab, UNION-IP, Reflection on the adoption of ‘plain packaging’ legislation, [In French], 28 March 2014, accessed April 2014
  11. EU Transparency Register, Association des Praticiens de Droit des Marques et des Modèles, last modified on 6 January 2014, accessed April 2014