Exporters fume as Australia bans logos

Jennifer M Freedman

AUSTRALIA is facing a complaint at the World Trade Organisation over its decision to ban trademarks and logos on tobacco products.

The complaint, which says the plain-packaging law violates global intellectual-property rules, may be lodged with the WTO as soon as this week.

At least three governments including Ukraine will be involved, said a source.

Australia is the first country to require identical cigarette packaging. As of December 1, 2012, cigarettes there will have to be sold in dark brown packets, with no company logos or images and the same type for all brands.

Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco are among companies that have challenged the law, which Australia is extending to include cigars and loose-leaf tobacco products.

The rule is "not anti-trade, it's anti-cancer,'' Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson said in response. "It's in the public interests of the Australian people and the government will never give up on Australia's sovereign right to look after the health of its people."