International Trademark Association

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The International Trademark Association (INTA), which is headquartered in New York, is a global association that promotes and protects the rights of trademark owners.[1]

INTA's 2017 annual report states that it works to “counter legislative initiatives on brand restrictions”, including large health warnings and plain packaging for tobacco and alcohol products.[2] INTA mostly does this by making critical media statements and submissions to government consultations.

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

Tobacco Membership Fees

INTA is funded through membership fees. Corporate members include British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International (PMI), Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Altria.[3][4]

Tobacco Company Representation on INTA Board

Tobacco company representatives have held various INTA leadership positions.

2018: PMI’s Assistant General Counsel Trademarks Copyright and Designs, Barry Gerber, served on INTA’s Board of Directors.[5]

2017: JTI’s Ronald van Tuijl was INTA’s ‘Immediate Past President and Ex-Officio’.[6]

2016: Van Tuijl served as INTA President.[7]

2015: Van Tuijl was President Elect.[8]

2014: Van Tuijl served as Secretary.[9]

2013: BAT’s Toe Su Aung was INTA President and Chair of the Board, and JTI’s van Tuijl was on the Board of Directors.[10]

2012: Aung was President Elect, and Van Tuijl sat on the Board.[11]

2011: Aung served as Vice President.[12]

Countering Tobacco Control Measures: Plain Packaging

INTA has a history of working against tobacco plain packaging, without disclosing its tobacco industry membership.

Singapore

On 31 October 2018, Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced that Singapore would introduce plain packaging with enlarged health warnings on all tobacco products.[13] Weeks later, INTA issued a media statement that tried to shift the policy debate away from health to economics, urging the Singapore government to take a “well-informed and balanced approach to this issue” by considering “the contribution of intellectual property (IP) to economic growth”.[14]

INTA stated that “research published by INTA” (no details provided) showed that “trademark intensive industries” contribute to 50% of Singapore’s GDP, 60% of its exports, and 29% of overall employment. INTA further claimed that plain packaging would lead to the Singapore market being flooded with illicit tobacco, and urged the Singapore government to modify the proposal to focus on preventative health education instead.[14]

The statement ended with a short biography of INTA, stating that the association’s members included “more than 7,200 trademark owners". It failed to mention that its membership included the major tobacco companies, whose representatives have served key roles on INTA’s Board.

Europe

INTA also opposed initial proposals by the European Commission to include plain packaging in the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision (TPD) (2009-2014).

In December 2010 INTA told European media that “We believe that plain packaging will encroach on the rights of trademark owners and their ability to properly and lawfully use their trademarks. In addition, in our view, plain packaging would make it easier for counterfeit products to enter the market and make it more difficult for consumers to distinguish genuine from counterfeit products.”[15]

Plain packaging was ultimately removed from the TPD proposal, which has been labelled “the most lobbied dossier in the history of EU institutions’.[16]

Australia

In 2009 Australia’s National Preventative Health Taskforce examined the evidence to support the introduction of plain packaging.[17] INTA submitted a letter to the Taskforce opposing the policy and arguing that it would deprive a trademark owner of the use of its personal property, who should therefore be compensated, and that the policy could give rise to an increase in illicit tobacco trade.[18] No supporting evidence was given to support these claims.

INTA also provided comments to the 2010 Australian Senate Standing Committee on the draft Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill and wrote to Australia's Assistant Secretary of Health in June 2011.[19][20] On both occasions INTA argued that the plans to introduce plain packaging "represent an encroachment on the rights of trademark owners and their ability to properly and lawfully use their trademarks". In July 2011, INTA wrote to the Australian Standing Committee on Health and Ageing:

“Although we take no position on the particular health issues that are the focus of this legislation, we strongly believe that the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 is a serious encroachment on the rights of trademark owners and frustrates the ability of trademarks to function properly as a part of free and effective commerce.”

INTA also raised issues with respect to:

  • certain provisions of the Constitution of Australia;
  • an increased risk of counterfeiting;
  • use requirements under Australia’s Trade Marks Act;
  • the effect of the Bill on distinctiveness and registration of a trademark;
  • potential treaty violations of the TRIPS Agreement and Paris Convention, which will place Australia outside the international trademark harmonization process.[21]

In none of its correspondence with the Australian Government did INTA declare its relationship with the tobacco industry.

Canada

In the 1990s the tobacco industry was concerned that Canada would be one of the first countries to introduce plain packaging and set a world precedent.[22]

On 6 April 1994, tobacco company Rothmans (later acquired by BAT) wrote to INTA on behalf of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Committee (CTMC) to brief it on plain packaging developments in the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Health and proposed the "possibility of the International Trade-Mark Association making a presentation or sending a brief to the Committee”.[22]

Three weeks later, the Chairman of the Standing Committee received a letter from INTA that opposed the proposed plain packaging measure.[23] Whilst stating that the association took "no position on the public policy and health issues as they relate to the plain packaging of tobacco produce", INTA expressed its "concerns regarding the potential impact that the plain packaging proposal for tobacco products being studied by your Committee may have on trademark owners, generally and the public at large", and urged the Committee to reject the plain packaging proposal.[23]

United States of America

In 1990 INTA also opposed 'The Tobacco Control and Health Protection Act', which was pending before the American Congress.[24] The legislation would have, among other things, imposed limits on the use and display of trademarks in cigarette packaging and advertising.

Countering Tobacco Control Measures: Larger Health Warnings

New Zealand

In 1995 an article in the New Zealand media reported that INTA had “come out in support of our tobacco industry” and opposed the proposals in New Zealand to increase health warnings on cigarette packets.[25] INTA was quoted as stating that the health measure would "unreasonably and unnecessarily curtail trademark owners' legitimate rights".[25]

That same year INTA also wrote to the New Zealand Minister of Health to "express the Association's concern regarding the proposed amendments to the New Zealand Smoke-free Environments Act of 1990”.[26] INTA, which identified itself as a “worldwide membership organization representing 2800 corporations’ without specifying that these included tobacco companies, argued that the proposed size of the warnings would restrict trademark owners in exercising their right to identify their goods in such a manner so as to distinguish those goods from others in the marketplace.[26]

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant Link

International Trademark Association website

Notes

  1. International Trademark Association, What is INTA, undated, accessed November 2018
  2. INTA, 2017 Annual Report, accessed November 2018
  3. INTA, Corporate Member List, accessed November 2018
  4. S. Bialous, Corporate Accountability International, Article 5.3 and international tobacco industry interference, Convention Secretariat WHO FCTC, November 2015, accessed November 2018
  5. INTA, 2018 Board of Directors, 2018, accessed November 2018
  6. INTA, 2017 Board of Directors, archived 28 June 2017, accessed November 2018
  7. INTA, 2016 Board of Directors, archived 1 August 2016, accessed November 2018
  8. INTA, 2015 Board of Directors, archived 27 August 2015, accessed November 2018
  9. INTA, 2014 Board of Directors, archived 1 July 2014, accessed November 2018
  10. INTA, 2013 Board of Directors, archived 19 July 2013, accessed November 2018
  11. INTA, 2012 Board of Directors, archived 14 July 2012, accessed November 2018
  12. INTA, 2011 Board of Directors, archived 13 July 2011, accessed November 2018
  13. SEATCA, Singapore to introduce plain packaging, larger graphic warnings for all tobacco products, 31 October 2018, November 2018
  14. 14.0 14.1 INTA Statement on Singapore Government’s Decision to Introduce Standardized Packaging on Tobacco Products, AG-IP News, 18 November 2018, accessed November 2018
  15. P. Lemoine, "Trade Mark Law: Cigarettes: Plain Packaging' Conundrum", Europolitics, 10 December 2010
  16. S. Peeters, H. Costa, D. Stuckler, et al, The revision of the 2014 European tobacco products directive: an analysis of the tobacco industry’s attempts to ‘break the health silo’, Tobacco Control, 2016; 25:108-117
  17. The Department of Health, Introduction of tobacco plain packaging in Australia, last updated 17 April 2018, accessed November 2018
  18. R. Steele, Submission to the Preventative Health Taskforce Secretariat, 2009
  19. H. Steinmeyer, Letter to Athe Committee Secretary Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Canberra, International Trademark Association, 24 February 2010, accessed November 2018
  20. H. Steinmeyer, Letter to Assistant Secretary, Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra, International Trademark Association, 3 June 2011, accessed November 2018
  21. A.C. Drewsen, Submission to Chairman Steve Georganas MP, Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, House of Representatives, Canberra, 22 July 2011, accessed December 2018
  22. 22.0 22.1 J. McDonald, Letter to Bruce McPherson regarding plain packaging initiatives, 6 April 1994, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 502592838-502592841, accessed December 2018
  23. 23.0 23.1 R. Berman, Letter to the Standing Committee on Health, 27 April 1994, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 502592609-502592615, accessed December 2018
  24. R. J. Reynolds, RE: Plain Packaging Of Tobacco Products, Submission to the Standing Committee on Health, House of Commons, Ottawa, 30 July 1993, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 520777925-520777985, accessed December 2018
  25. 25.0 25.1 N. Mandow, Trademark guardians slam Shipley's ciggie health warnings, The Independent, 5 June 1995, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 600525433, accessed November 2018
  26. 26.0 26.1 C. Simmons-Gill, Letter to Honorable Jenny Shipley, 24 May 1995, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 520809787-520809788, accessed December 2018