Beneluxvereniging voor Merken-en Modellenrecht

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The name Beneluxvereniging voor Merken-en Modellenrecht (BMM) is Flemish and translates into Benelux Association of Trademark and Design Law. It is a professional association of legal specialists. Its website explains:

“All the members work for patent and/or trademark… departments of large companies, as lawyers or as (university) lecturers.

“The association promotes and guarantees the quality of the professional practice of its members, ensuring you expert advice and guidance on registration (protection) of trademark and (industrial) design, negotiations and possible conflicts.”1

Screengrab of BMM members page for three JTI employees, June 2014.

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

As of June 2014, on its website, BMM listed three Japan Tobacco International (JTI) employees as members of the Association.2

Sister Associations

BMM is openly affiliated with a number of other associations that it refers to as its “Sister Associations”, including the European Communities Trademark Association (ECTA), Association of Trademarks and Designs Rights Practitioners (APRAM), the German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (GRUR), MARQUES, and Union-IP. All of these associations lobby on Intellectual Property (IP) issues, and together they have lobbied in favour of upholding the intellectual property of tobacco companies.3

Against Plain Packaging

UK 2012: Shortly after the launch of the initial UK Government’s Consultation on Plain (standardised) Packaging for tobacco products in 2012, BMM and its sister organisations signed a joint statement issued by MARQUES arguing 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”.

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.4
UK 2013: The sister associations issued a follow up to this statement in July 2013.5
UK 2014: On 25 June 2014, in response to Ireland’s decision to carry forward plain packaging legislation, BMM 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.6 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.

Opposing Measures in the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision

In 2014 the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive was adopted, following a 5 year review mired with controversy, delays and tobacco industry interference, including an increased use of third party lobbying on the tobacco industry’s behalf. A study led by the University of Bath identified 137 associations that voiced support for policy options favoured by the tobacco industry,7 including BMM and its sister associations. Furthermore, leaked Philip Morris documents reveal that IP was one of the main platforms that the tobacco industry planned to use to challenge the plain packaging measure in the TPD.7

In July 2013, prior to the TPD vote in the European Parliament’s Health Committee (ENVI), the BMM and several of its sister associations released a statement objecting to the provisions outlined in the proposed EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision.
The statement urged ENVI members to vote against plain packaging and “excessively large health warning labels on packaging” which the associations labelled ”extreme amendments” to the proposed TPD revision.5 BMM did not disclose that it had tobacco industry members.
In October 2013, shortly before the vote in Parliament’s plenary, BMM and its sister organisations issued another statement urging all Members of Parliament to vote against plain packaging and larger health warnings.8

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. BMM website, welcome to the website of the BMM [archived], April 2014, accessed February 2021
  2. BMM, Zoek JT International SA: Alle bmm leden [archived], 2014, accessed June 2014
  3. APRAM website, Activites, accessed April 2014
  4. JTI, Response to the Department of Health’s Consultation on the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products, 3 July 2012, accessed February 2021
  5. abAPRAM, 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
  6. 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, accessed October 2015
  7. abS Peeters, H Costa, D Stuckler et al, The revision of the 2014 European tobacco products directive: an analysis of the tobacco industry’s attempts to ‘break the health silo’, Tobacco Control Published Online First 24 February 2015
  8. APRAM, BMM, ECTA, GRUR, MARQUES, and UNION, Joint Statement. European Parliament Plenary Vote of 8 October 2013 on Tobacco Product Directive: Objections to the Adoption of “Plain Packaging” and Excessive Measures Restricting Normal Use of Trademarks, 4 October 2013, accessed March 2015