On June 15, 2015, INTA submitted comments to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Panel on Health Services regarding the panel’s recent report titled “Progress of Tobacco Control Measures.” In this report, it is proposed that “the area of the graphic health warning shall be of a size that covers at least 85% of two largest surfaces of the packet on the retail container” for cigarette and relevant tobacco products.
While INTA takes no position on the health issues that are the focus of this proposed measure, the Association does believe that such a requirement would be an encroachment on the rights of trademark owners.
If the health warning size is to cover 85% of the packaging, then that leaves 15% for trademarks and branding. This would reduce the ability of a trademark to serve its function. Space limitations would force tobacco companies to give up elements of their brands and trade dress, which could cause a loss of business opportunities for those companies.
Not only would this proposed requirement be a violation of the intellectual property provisions of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, but it would also be inconsistent with Hong Kong’s international treaty obligations under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. For more information, please read INTA’s full letter to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Panel and the Board Resolution on Plain Packaging passed in May.