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Australia wins plain packaging case

29 Jun 2018. A panel of judges at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has rejected arguments brought by Cuba, Indonesia, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, ruling in favour of Australia in the landmark trade dispute over plain packaging for tobacco, ABC News reported.

The WTO panel found that the Australia’s plain packaging law, which has mandated since December 2012 standardised packaging for tobacco, without branding and logos, contributed to improving public health by reducing tobacco use. The ruling rejected arguments made by the four countries that plain packaging unjustifiably infringed on trademarks and violated intellectual property rights, the news agency reported.

The panel’s ruling clears the way for more countries to implement plain packaging in tobacco, but could potentially have implications for the packaging of other products such as junk food and alcohol, ABC News said.

"The ruling clears another legal hurdle thrown up in the tobacco industry's efforts to block tobacco control and is likely to accelerate implementation of plain packaging around the globe," read a statement from the WHO.

Honduras indicated it would file an appeal and an official said Indonesia would examine its options.

The ruling marked a significant day for tobacco control, according to head of the secretariat of the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva.

"What this shows in reality is that plain packaging is a reality, it will happen anyway, and parties will progressively adhere more to plain packaging," da Costa e Silva was quoted as saying.