German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property

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Image 1. Screen grab of PMI’s EU transparency register entry (2 April 2014). Click to enlarge.

The German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (GRUR), or ‘Rechtsschultz und Urheberrecht’ as it is known in the German language, is, according to a report written by the organisation:

"a recognised non-profit-making, academic association of the members of those groups of occupations and organisations active in the field of intellectual property and copyright. The association is made up of academics, judges, civil servants, lawyers and patent attorneys as well as the representatives of associations and enterprises. The explicit purpose of GRUR is the academic advancement and the development of intellectual property and copyright law at German, European and International level."[1]

According to its website “GRUR does not pursue personal, professional or commercial interests, but exclusively and directly academic objectives of a non-profit nature.”[2]


Links to the Tobacco Industry

At its last count (12 November 2013), GRUR had over 350 international members from 36 different countries[3] and has approximately 5,000 members overall, mostly in Germany. Despite stating that “Membership shall be open to individuals, enterprises, agencies, associations, professional guilds and other entities" and that "Corporate members can be represented by individuals when being affiliated to or working with the Association´s bodies and committees, and when participating in the Association´s events”,[4] GRUR does not disclose exactly who its members are.

However, on the EU Transparency Register Philip Morris International (PMI) discloses that it is a member of GRUR (see Image 1).[5]

Sister Associations

GRUR is openly affiliated with a number of other associations referred to as "Sister Organisations", namely, the Association of Trademarks and Designs Rights Practitioners (APRAM), Beneluxvereniging voor Merken-en Modellenrecht (BMM), the European Communities Trademark Association (ECTA), 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. [6][7]

Against Plain Packaging

UK 2012: Shortly after the launch of the first UK Consultation on plain packaging for tobacco products on 16 April 2013, a joint statement was issued by GRUR, APRAM, BMM, ECTA, MARQUES and Union-IP. 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.[8]
  • 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 to underline "The UK’s International Legal Obligations".[9]

EU Transparency Register

GRUR was not listed on the EU Transparency register at the time of writing (April 2014). However, as mentioned above, PMI disclosed that it was a member of GRUR in 2012 (see image).

TobaccoTactics Resources

Notes

  1. GRUR, Opinion of the German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property regarding the Proposal of the European Commission for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products, COM(2012) 788 final, 1 October 2013, accessed March 2014
  2. GRUR, Welcome to GRUR, accessed April 2014
  3. GRUR, About Us: Membership/Honorary Membership, accessed March 2014
  4. GRUR, About Us: Statutes, accessed March 2014
  5. EU Transparency Register, Philip Morris International Inc, Financial Year 01/2012 - 12/2012, accessed 25 March 2014
  6. APRAM, BMM, ECTA, MARQUES, Union-IP, Objections to the adoption of ‘plain packaging’ and excessive measures restricting normal use of trademarks. Joint Statement, 3 July 2013
  7. GRUR, GRUR meets Brussels: GRUR-ECTA Joint Brussels workshop 2013: European Trademark System under review – A first analysis of the new proposed legal framework, 24 April 2013, accessed March 2014
  8. 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’, 23 April 2012, accessed April 2014
  9. JTI, Response to the Department of Health’s Consultation on the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products, 3 July 2012