CANBERRA Oct 5 Australia did not infringe
tobacco companies' intellectual property rights by forcing them
to sell cigarettes in plain packets, Australia's highest court
said on Friday, killing off any domestic challenge to the
Australia's highest court in August dismissed a challenge by
international cigarette companies to tough anti-tobacco
marketing laws in a major test case that means from Dec. 1,
cigarettes and tobacco products must be sold in plain green
packets with graphic health warnings, such as pictures of mouth
cancer and other smoking-related illnesses.
Tobacco giants British American Tobacco, Britain's
Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco
challenged the laws, saying the rules were
unconstitutional because they effectively acquired their
intellectual property rights.
The High Court, in details of its ruling in a full judgement
handed down on Friday, dismissed that argument.
"Although the Act regulated the plaintiffs' intellectual
property rights and imposed controls on the packaging and
presentation of tobacco products, it did not confer a
proprietary benefit or interest on the Commonwealth or any other
person," the court said in a statement.
The decision is a blow to tobacco companies and ends any
domestic Australian challenges to plain packaging.
A spokesman for British American Tobacco Australia said the
new regulations would have serious unintended consequences
regardless of the reasons for the court decision.
The laws are in line with World Health Organisation
recommendations and are being watched closely by Britain,
Norway, New Zealand, Canada and India, which are considering
similar measures to help fight smoking.