Tobacco Companies Think Their Trademarks Are More Important Than Your Health

from the who-needs-lungs-anyway? dept

Back in January of this year, Techdirt reported on tobacco companies suing a local Australian importer of their products for covering up part of their logos with a mandatory health warning. At the time, a spokeswoman for the company involved, British American Tobacco, said:
As the matter is currently before the Court, BAT is unable to comment other than to say that this is a further demonstration that we will take all necessary steps to protect our valuable intellectual property.
Given that stance, it will come as no surprise to learn that tobacco companies are now threatening to take on the European Commission as well:
EU Health Commissioner John Dalli will face legal action if he tries to reproduce Australia's plain-packaging proposals for cigarettes in Europe, a tobacco industry representative warned this week.
The approach is the same as in Australia:
One likely focus of attack is intellectual property rights, since plain packaging has a smothering effect on companies' logos and trademarks.
I'd like to think that the word "smothering" was taken verbatim from some tobacco company representative, because it sums up nicely the industry's attitude: that any breathing difficulties or respiratory diseases that you may develop as the result of smoking pale into insignificance compared with the outrageous "smothering" of their logos and trademarks.

That's a particularly callous attitude, because those logos and trademarks are only valuable to the degree they have been attached to products that have caused death and disease: the "best" brands are those with a track record of selling and hence killing more people than rival products. In effect, the tobacco companies are complaining that all their hard work getting people addicted and smoking themselves to death will be wasted if the plain-packaging proposals for cigarettes are implemented.

The cynical posturing of tobacco firms as the victims in these continuing attempts to undo and avoid the social harm they cause underlines once more how easily intellectual monopolies can be twisted for purposes far from any original justification they may once have had. Patents can kill: so, it seems will trademarks, if tobacco companies get their way.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Filed Under: health, smoking, tobacco, trademarks


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  1. icon
    TheOldFart (profile), 1 Dec 2011 @ 9:21am

    Maybe a solution

    Allow them to put their logos on with just one change.

    Whenever someone dies from emphysema or the type of lung cancer that is almost always caused by smoking, they keep a tally. Below the logo in large digits is the number of dead smokers who smoked that particular brand. The count gets updated semiannually. Maybe add a 3D bar code that sends you to a website that maintains the current counts for each brand.

    Gets the message across with minimal changes and has the added benefit of always driving people away from the best selling (i.e. highest death count) brands which screws all the tobacco companies (though not nearly as hard as they should be)

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