After almost two years of procedural jousting Australia’s plain packaging law is finally about to be scrutinised in court.
The case will now be settled by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after the tobacco producing countries of Cuba, Ukraine, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic brought action against Australia arguing that the law hampered their intellectual property rights.
The plain packaging law was introduced in December 2012.
Topping the litany of complaints against it was that the removal of branding hampered the ability of tobacco producers to differentiate their premium products from other competitors.
The Dominican Republic’s director general of foreign trade Katrina Naut said Australia’s plain packaging measures were “failing to have the desired health effects of reducing smoking prevalence” and remained “detrimental” to its premium priced tobacco industry.
The case will commence within weeks. Director general of the WTO Roberto Azevedo will appoint three panellists by the 5 May to judge the dispute.
The ruling could set an important precedent for other countries considering plain packaging of tobacco, as well other products such as confectionary and alcohol.
The UK government is braced to launch another plain packaging consultation following the conclusion of the Chantler Review last month.