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Legal Throw Down Over Plain Packaging of Cigarettes Has Phillip Morris Seeing Red
In recent days, Philip Morris ramped up its legal battle against Australia’s planned cigarette plain packaging laws the tobacco giant fears will rob it of its intellectual property rights.
The packaging laws, due to go into effect next December of 2012, will require cigarette makers in Australia to uniformly package their products. This will, in effect, abolish brand names and concentrate more on the health risks of tobacco.
According to Canberra, the capital city of Australia, the switch to plain label packaging may help more Australians kick the habit. Admittedly, the government says the sale of cigarettes is a money maker, but winds up costing more for health related expenses.
Philip Morris already said it would seek arbitration on the bits and pieces of the new measures, which amounted to the legal challengers earlier filed by British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco.
The two tobacco giants filed their complaints before the Australian High Court. They argue that the new government policy will violate their trademark properties and constitutional rights.
Phillip Morris is now claiming the same; the company employes over 800 Australians and has an estimated 40 percent share of the local cigarette market.
In a statement, Philip Morris spokesman Chris Argent said that the new laws would empower the Australian government to prevent the company from using its “valuable brands and intellectual property without offering compensation.” He was quoted as saying: “We believe plain packaging violates the Australian Constitution because the Government is seeking to acquire our property without paying compensation,” in the December 21st ibtimes.com article, “Philip Morris Asks High Court to Declare Cigarette Plain Packaging Unconstitutional”.
Canberra rejected the arguments behind the legal challenges against its anti-smoking policy, with new Attorney-General Nicola Roxon insisting that “big tobacco is fighting against the government for one very simple reason because it knows that plain packaging will work.”
Roxon was quoted as saying: “While (they are) fighting to protect profits, we are fighting to protect lives.”
Many legal experts made the observation that the imminent legal throw down will see Prime Minister Julia Gillard claim victory, based on established legal tenets that allow governments to set aside property rights in order to preserve public health.
Philip Morris USA is the United States tobacco division of Altria Group, Inc. Philip Morris USA brands include Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Benson and Hedges, Merit, Parliament, Alpine, Basic, Cambridge, Bucks, Dave’s, Chesterfield, Collector’s Choice, Commander, English Ovals, Lark, L&M, Players and Saratoga. In 2003, Philip Morris Companies Inc. changed its name to Altria Group, Inc., a move many view as an effort to deemphasize its historical association with tobacco products.
Philip Morris USA Inc. is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. As well, it has manufacturing, processing and support facilities there.
British American Tobacco is a global tobacco company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is ranked as the world’s second largest quoted tobacco company by global market share, following Philip Morris International. Brands include Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall.