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September 4, 2018

MIP Quotes Several Tilleke & Gibbins Practitioners on Plain Packaging Across Southeast Asia

Managing Intellectual Property

Practitioners from Tilleke & Gibbins’ offices in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam have been quoted extensively in an article by Managing Intellectual Property (MIP) , discussing a recent ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on plain packaging in Australia and its potential effect on packaging regulations for Asian jurisdictions.

Alan Adcock, partner and deputy director of Tilleke & Gibbins’ intellectual property department, notes that “[the WTO’s] unfortunate decision will likely further embolden overzealous health regulators here in Asia to further encroach upon the intellectual property rights of manufacturers across several industries,” while questioning the WTO’s reasoning in its reaching its decision that plain packaging does not unjustifiably encumber trademarks.

The potential for this decision to affect regulations is echoed by Linh Thi Mai Nguyen, head of trademark in Tilleke & Gibbins’ Vietnam offices, who notes that existing tobacco legislation in Vietnam is implemented in such a way as to “take into account, inter alia, conditions and trends in printing health warnings on tobacco packages of other countries in the region and around the world.” She adds that this clear statement of the persuasiveness of non-binding international judgments shows that “the WTO ruling on the Australian law may have a negative impact on tobacco and other industries in Vietnam.”

Indonesia, as a challenger to the WTO’s plain packaging measures, takes the position that “[t]he WTO panel has overlooked the trademark owner’s rights and, as a result, consumers’ abilities to make informed decisions are diminished,” explains Somboon Earterasarun, a partner in Tilleke & Gibbins’ intellectual property department, discussing the Indonesian challenge. Wongrat Ratanaprayul, director of Tilleke & Gibbins’ Indonesia operations still advises caution however, noting that “Indonesia’s brand owners will need to be more vigilant in monitoring potential regulatory encroachments that could lead to other products of public health concern, which may also be subjected to discriminative plain packaging in the future, although no such regulation is currently in the pipeline.”

To read the full article, please visit the MIP  Website (subscription required).