The packaging of an increasingly category of health related products (tobacco, alcohol, food and pharmaceuticals) is nowadays gradually shaped and physically defined more by the state than by the market. Measures which restrict the freedom to design the packaging of these products are indeed increasingly adopted or proposed by governments. While generally the common objective of most of these measures is to better inform consumers about the characteristics of the goods at stake, packaging-related measures specifically regulating harmful products (tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food) often aim at dissuading people from actually consuming them. And they do so by minimizing the impact of trademarks and other packaging elements on the overall aspect of the product.

In their pursuit of public health targets, regulatory bodies are thus determined to restrict the ability of manufacturers in the industries in question to promote and market their goods as they wish, and to make the products appealing to consumers by using trademark-protected eye-catching words and logos on the pack. The implementation of this new category of regulatory requirements raises therefore significant issues and challenges for trademark regimes, including the nature of trademark rights, the clash between the interests of brands’ owners and public interests, and the extent to which such IP rights can offer immunity from governmental action. The talk will expand on such issues and challenges, by also referring to recent high-level domestic and international disputes concerning tobacco packaging.

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Each year the OIPRC hosts a number of leading academics from around the world as part of its Invited Speaker Series. These events typically run from 5:15-6:45pm on Thursday evenings at St. Peter’s College; if the venue or time is different, it will be noted on the Events calendar.  The Speaker Series consists of a presentation of about 45 minutes, followed by a Q&A session with the assembled group of academic staff, students (both undergraduate and graduate), researchers, and interested members of the public.  Discussion is informal and includes participants from several disciplines, with a wide range of prior knowledge.

Convenors: Dev Gangjee and Robert Pitkethly