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The International Trademark Association (INTA) held its annual meeting in November, bringing together 3,340 participants from 110 countries virtually, to address concerns in brand restrictions.  The most extreme form of restriction, plain packaging, received much attention.  Conference speakers presented evidence that plain packaging has given rise to illicit production, loss of excise revenue, and consumer confusion.

Plain packaging began as a regulation on tobacco products and is now mandatory in many countries today.  This set the precedent for brand restrictive laws and regulations that go beyond just tobacco products.  Health regulators have directed their attention to other industries in an attempt to expand what is viewed as public health protection.  Increased regulation has affected the alcoholic beverages, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics industries.  The national and international policy objectives are to improve public health and consumer safety, however, the restrictions on the use of branding symbols are a growing and serious threat to IP rights.  

The strong case against brand restrictions was the topic at a conference panel discussion at which former INTA President Ronald van Tuijl of JT International S.A. argued that “In a market where all products look alike, the products become commoditized.  Premium brands lose market share or are even delisted.  That results are less consumer choice ultimately.”

INTA first opposed restrictions on trademark use through plain and standardized product packaging with its adoption of the Resolution in Plain Packaging in May 2015.  INTA’s position is that plain packaging violates various international treaties and national laws on trademark protection including the Paris Convention and the TRIPS Agreement.  The resolution suggests governments use alternatives to address health and safety goals. The key concern voiced in the resolution is that plain packaging will affect consumer choice, limit competition and lead to increased counterfeit. 

Then again, last November, INTA’s Board of Directors passed a Resolution on Brand Restrictions, which reemphasized the plain packaging resolution regarding the negative effects of plain packaging.  Brand restrictions impact the totality of a brand’s image and wherever practical, governments should take other actions to address public health and safety, such as public education.  These measures, unlike brand restrictions, do not seize personal property rights in brand symbols.

Intellectual property is a highly specialized area of law and the professionals at Ference and Associates have navigated the intricate industry for decades.  They have worked with regional, national and global clients in securing and protecting their IP rights. To learn how they can help you, contact Ference & Associates at 412.741.8400 or contact@ferencelaw.com.

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About Us
Ference & Associates is a Pittsburgh, PA based law firm with a global client base. Our attorneys focus on patent, trademark, and copyright law.


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