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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Indonesia pushes on with tobacco IP challenge



The tobacco wars continue with Indonesia being granted by the WTO the right to challenge Australia’s plain packaging laws before a full panel. 5 tobacco producing countries are at various stages of challenging Australia's controversial 2012 laws that restrict cigarette packs to plain green with white labels. The basis is breach of trade laws and restricting IP protection. See here and here for more background.

Australia seems to want a fast resolution so filed no objections. The cases have have taken a long time in WTO terms, a sign say Australian commentators that the industry is seeking to delay an ultimate likely loss.

While some cases are clearly brought by tobacco companies, such as PMI's case against Australia that the laws breach a bilateral trade agreement, others such as Indonesia's may be more obscure. It's own cigarette industry is not dominated by the major white cigarette makers but kretek clove cigarette producers, who sell little in Australia. Meanwhile Indonesia's health ministry is implementing rules to restrict tobacco marketing, which is more in keeping with Australia's laws.  Other countries are watching from the wings, before pushing ahead with their own similar laws. Australia already beat BAT and JTI in domestic lawsuit challenges 2 years ago.

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