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MARQUES, or the European Association of Trademark Owners, aims “to be the trusted voice for brand owners.”1
The Association was established in 1986 by a small group of trade mark owners. Today there are approximately 650 MARQUES members, including both trade mark-owning businesses (corporate members) and trade mark practitioners in private practice (expert members) which come from more than 90 countries. Between them the corporate members own more than two million trademarks.2
In its own words the Association “unites European and international brand owners across all product sectors to address issues associated with the use, protection and value of IP Property rights, as these are vital to innovation, growth and job creation…”3

Connection to the Tobacco Industry

Both Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International (PMI) are fee paying members of MARQUES.4

Sister Associations

MARQUES is openly affiliated with a number of other associations that it refers to as its ‘Sister Associations’, namely the Association of Trademarks and Designs Rights Practitioners (APRAM), Beneluxvereniging voor Merken-en Modellenrecht (BMM), the German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (GRUR), the European Communities Trademark Association (ECTA), and Union-IP. All of these organisations represent their members’ interests in intellectual property issues. Together these associations have lobbied against regulation which, they believe, affects the intellectual property of tobacco companies.

Slide 38 from PMI’s Power Point Presentation ‘UK Corporate Affairs Update, February 2012

Against Plain Packaging

UK 2012: Shortly after the launch of the UK Consultation on Plain Packaging for tobacco products, in a joint statement with its sister organisations MARQUES 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
UK 2013: The sister associations issued a  follow up to this statement in July 2013: 3
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.7 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.

PMI Identifies MARQUES as a Media Messenger

In 2013, internal 2012 PMI documents were leaked. The documents revealed that the company planned a multi-faceted campaign to oppose the British government’s proposal to introduce plain packaging.8
As part of its strategy PMI outlined key third-party “messengers”, including retail groups, business associations, think tanks, anti-counterfeiting groups, researchers and international organisations. This is a classic public relations tactic by the tobacco industry: whereby the industry uses supposedly independent third parties to push its message in the media.

Against the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision

Slide 7 from PMI’s Power Point Presentation ‘TPD Core Team Meeting, Brussels, 14 September 2011

In April 2013, MARQUES published its own position paper with regard to the proposed revisions of the EU Tobacco Products Directive and an amicus brief was submitted in support of the Ukraine challenge to the Australian plain packaging legislation before the World Trade Organisation.9
Three months later, in July 2013, together with its sister associations, MARQUES submitted a statement objecting to the provisions outlined in the proposed EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision.
The statement urged the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee to vote against plain packaging and “excessively large health warning labels on packaging” which the sister associations labelled ”extreme amendments” to the proposed TPD revision.3

PMI Identifies MARQUES Conference as part of its ‘IP platform’

In September 2011, PMI outlined its continued strategy to oppose the TPD revision. As part of a multi-faceted strategy, PMI depicted its activities on a number of “platforms”, including the intellectual property platform (See image of slide 7). PMI stated that it would “Continue to leverage on the mobilization of the public Consultation to…make our issues discussed in conferences: MARQUES annual conf. Sept 13.”10

EU Transparency Register

MARQUES is listed on the EU Transparency register. The Association disclosed that, for the 12 month period between March 2012 and March 2013, it spent between 50,000 and 100,000 Euros on lobbying activities. Public health is listed among its particular fields of interest.11

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. MARQUES, Welcome to MARQUES, accessed April 2014
  2. GRUR, Portrait: MARQUES – The identity of trademark owners, GRUR Newsletter 2013, accessed March 2014
  3. abcAPRAM, 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
  4. MARQUES, Members, accessed April 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’, 23 April 2012, accessed April 2014
  6. JTI, Response to the Department of Health’s Consultation on the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products, 3 July 2012
  7. 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 June 2014
  8. Philip Morris International, UK Corporate Affairs Update February 2012. In PMI leaked docs in 2013
  9. MARQUES, MARQUES’ submission on EU Commission’s proposal for a revised Tobacco Products Directive, 26 April 2013, accessed April 2014
  10. Philip Morris International, TPD Core Team Meeting. Brussels, 14 September 2011. In PMI leaked docs September 2013
  11. EU Transparency Register, MARQUES, Financial year 03/2012-03/2013, accessed April 2014