International Trademark Association

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In the EU Transparency Register, British American Tobacco lists the International Trademark Association (INTA) in its "lobbying" network, [1] and the company argues that it is "actively involved" in INTA. [2]

People

  • Alan Drewsen - Executive Director [3]
  • Christina Sleszynska - EU lobbyist for INTA. [4] In 2009, INTA declared that it spent Euros 200,000 to 250,000 lobbying the European Commission. [5]
  • Toe Su Aung - One of the Vice Presidents at INTA is the General Counsel for Anti-Illicit Trade at BATMark Limited, BAT's subsidiary in London. She has been at the company since June 1999. [6]

Against Increased Health Warnings

In the 1990s INTA opposed larger health warnings on cigarette packets in New Zealand, arguing that the moves would "unreasonably and unnecessarily curtail trademark owners' legitimate rights". [7]

In May 1995, INTA wrote to "express the Association's concern regarding the proposed amendments to the New Zealand Smoke-free Environments Act of 1990 requiring that a substantial amount of the packaging on cigarettes and other tobacco products be devoted to health warnings, and thus greatly reducing the space available for the product's trademark and packaging 'get-up'. In effect, the size of the warnings in proportion to the trademark on the packaging would restrict trademark owners in exercising their right to identify their goods in such a manner so as to distinguish those goods from others in the marketplace." [8]

Against Plain Packaging

INTA has a history of working against plain packaging of cigarettes:

In the USA

In 1990, INTA opposed "The Tobacco Control and Health Protection Act," which was pending before the American Congress. The legislation would have, among other things, imposed limits on the use and display of trademarks in cigarette packaging and advertising. [9]

In Canada

Responds to Industry Request for Help

On 6 April 1994, Rothmans, Bensons and Hedges wrote to INTA on behalf of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturer's Committee (CTMC) asking INTA to write to the Canadian political committee against the proposed plain packaging legislation. The letter said " CTMC has a number of initiatives underway which will ultimately argue against plain packaging for a variety of reasons including:

  • plain packaging will do nothing to achieve its anti-smoking objectives at considerable potential cost in jobs, international trade problems and smuggling
  • plain packaging may be illegal
  • plain packaging is merely harassment of smokers rather than an anti-smoking policy
  • plain packaging is inappropriate at this time given the introduction of new warning requirements for September and pending Supreme Court hearing on advertising appeal.

The letter went on to ask about the "possibility of the International Trade-Mark Association making a presentation or sending a brief to the Committee" concerned, called the Standing Committee on Health. [10]

Three weeks later, on the 27 April, INTA wrote to the Canadian Chairman of the Standing Committee on Health to oppose the proposed plain packaging measure. Whilst conceding that INTA took "no position on the public policy and health issues as they relate to the plain packaging of tobacco produce", the organisation expressed its "concerns regarding the potential impact that the plain packaging proposal for tobacco products being studied by your Committee may have on trademark owners, generally and the public at large". INTA argued that,

the deleterious effects of requiring plain packaging on tobacco products would be significant on the economic benefits derived from trademarks, particularly in terms of job creation, and on government and private efforts to combat counterfeit goods and to maintain control over those responsible for any product. Accordingly, INTA strongly recommends that the Standing Committee on Health reject the plain packaging proposal. [11]

In Australia

In 2009, INTA argued in a submission to the country's Preventative Health Taskforce that:

It is arguable that mandatory plain packaging will result in a trademark owner being deprived of the use of its personal property and therefore issues arise as to whether trademark owners should be compensated on just terms for that expropriation.

INTA concluded that "INTA's position is that the mandatory plain packaging of tobacco related products, and any other goods, should not be adopted. Introduction of such legislation, apart from the resulting legal difficulties, could give rise to an increase in counterfeit products which would not be in the interests of consumers’ health".[12]

In June 2011 INTA argued that the plans to introduce plain packaging "represent an encroachment on the rights of trademark owners and their ability to properly and lawfully use their trademarks". [13]

A month later in July 2011, INTA submitted evidence to the Australian Standing Committee on Health and Ageing:

Although we take no position on the particular health issues that are the focus of this legislation, we strongly believe that the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 is a serious encroachment on the rights of trademark owners and frustrates the ability of trademarks to function properly as a part of free and effective commerce.
In previous comments to draft plain packaging bills, INTA raised issues with respect to:
  • certain provisions of the Constitution of Australia
  • an increased risk of counterfeiting
  • use requirements under Australia’s Trade Marks Act
  • the effect of the Bill on distinctiveness and registration of a trademark
  • potential treaty violations of the TRIPS Agreement and Paris Convention, which will place Australia outside the international trademark harmonization process. [14]

In Europe

INTA is also against proposals by the European Commission to include plain packaging in the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision. In December 2010 the Europe Representative of INTA, Christina Sleszynska, commented that,

We believe that plain packaging will encroach on the rights of trademark owners and their ability to properly and lawfully use their trademarks. In addition, in our view, plain packaging would make it easier for counterfeit products to enter the market and make it more difficult for consumers to distinguish genuine from counterfeit products (On this particular issue, INTA will limit its comments to the trademark implications of the proposals and will not comment on public policy or health issues related to tobacco products).[15]

Notes

  1. EU Transparency Register, BAT, Accessed August 2011
  2. BAT website, How we tackle illicit trade, Accessed August 2011
  3. Executive Team: Executive Director Alan C. Drewsen, INTA Website, Accessed September 2011
  4. Executive Team: Christina Sleszynska, INTA Website, Accessed September 2011
  5. Transparency Register, Accessed September 2011
  6. International Trademark Association, Website, Accessed August 2011
  7. Nikki Mandow, "Trademark guardians slam Shipley's ciggie health warnings", The Independent, 5 June 1995
  8. Catherine Simmons-Gill, Letter to Honorable Jenny Shipley, 24 May 1995
  9. R. J. Reynolds, RE: Plain Packaging Of Tobacco Products, Submission to the Standing Committee on Heath, House of Commons, Ottawa, 30 July 1993
  10. John McDonald, Letter to Bruce McPherson, 6 April 1994
  11. Richard Berman, Letter to the Standing Committee on Health, 27 April 1994
  12. Rhonda Steele, Submission to the Preventative Health Taskforce Secretariat, 2009, Accessed September 2011
  13. Heather Steinmeyer, Letter to Assistant Secretary, Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra, International Trademark Association, June 3 2011
  14. Alan C. Drewsen, Submission to Chairman Steve Georganas MP, Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, House of Representatives, Canberra, 22 July 2011
  15. Pierre Lemoine, "Trade Mark Law: Cigarettes: Plain Packaging' Conundrum", Europolitics, 10 December 2010