In 2010, Philip Morris International sued the country of Uruguay for USD $25 million over the branding of cigarettes stating that Uruguay’s attempt to curb smoking by requiring standardized packaging is in treaty violation. The Swiss-based company claims the new packaging does not allow for trademark and is in violation of intellectual property rights.
There’s been very little international coverage of the battle in branding publications worldwide. Why should consumers and brands pay attention?
Branding is often held, hand-in-hand, with trademark for international brands. Sometimes, a re-brand is required to secure trademarks in a myriad of countries. The repercussions for brands that are required to remove their trademarks and/or their brand identity from their products could be significant.
The larger question remains, by changing and/or limiting branding, will that solve the issue at hand or is it curbing the ability of brands to market? What does that do to market competition and consumer choice?
Recently, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg joined the battle by launching a USD $4 million fund through their respective foundations to support countries like Uruguay. Australia passed legislation requiring standardized packaging in 2012 followed most recently by Ireland and the UK.
Ultimately, the question remains: who controls branding? Is it the brand itself, the consumer or the courts? Where the outcome of the case will be decided with worldwide implications.
Read more on the case.
Source: BBC Worldwide, Forbes.