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Tobacco giant launches intellectual property campaign

British American Tobacco has launched an advertising campaign opposing any plain packaging law for cigarettes. 

The campaign - which is costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars - is called 'Agree/Disagree', and aims to highlight the tobacco company's view that a plain packaging law would infringe on its intellectual property rights. 

That was the same argument used in Australia against that government's plain packaging law, but the High Court ruled in favour of the government. 

The Court's reasons for its decision won't be released until later this year.

BATNZ general manager Steve Rush says the branding on cigarette packets has been created over many years and belongs to the company.

"Our branding is property - intellectual property - and the government shouldn't be able to take that away."

New Zealand's government has not yet drafted a plain packaging law, but is consulting with the public on the issue. 

Earlier: British American Tobacco will today announce details of a campaign opposing moves by the government to implement a plain packaging law for cigarettes.

Details of the campaign have not yet been released, but it will likely be a pre-emptive attack on any future anti-smoking laws, similar to the one just approved by the Australian High Court.

Tobacco companies had appealed an Australian government decision to implement plain packaging for cigarettes, but this was rejected by the High Court, which last week found the law complied with the constitution.

More by Caleb Allison

Comments and questions

I can see this ending very, very badly for BAT.

If they make their cigs in say China or HK, NZ will have to take them as they come because of free trade deal

lets hope they look at booze in plain packages.
booze has had more affect on kiwi families than cigs

Can't wait to see this on the telly tonight. Will have to get out a big fat cigar to enjoy the heated debate this is sure to create.

God loves a trier
Except of course, BAT
As they kill people

Esther E, Governments around the world killed more than 155 million people last century alone. I think they have an edge on the cig companies. Moreover I never saw a cig company hold a gun to anyone's head demanding they ake up smoking.

Have a look at how many people the health system kills each year through bad decisions, let alone bad advice, more than the road toll.

Plain packages do nothing. Promote personal responsibility. Get people to think.

The personal choice brigade is getting a little old now, let 30, 40, 50 year old smokers keep at it, I have no issue with it. But with the average smoker in NZ starting up at 14 years old how many of these young people do you think are making well informed life lasting decisions? Our kids are the ones we should be protecting and it is OUR personal responsibility to do so.

The WHO attribute 100 million deaths to smoking in the 20th century. So are you arguing plain packaging shouldn't be implemented because this number is less than your (claimed) government number? Strange reference and logic.

How many does the health system 'kill' each year? I believe the road toll is of the order of 500 each year. Are we ranking methods of death here? At what threshold does a reduction in smoking deaths qualify in your analysis.

That's right, it is OUR responsibility for our kids. The notion that t Stat can fix very challenge we encounter in life is tired, futile and well discredited.

Take the war on drugs. A lot of plain packaging there. Billions spent fighting it and I could walk out my door now and have any reasonable amount of a huge variety of nasty street drugs within the hour. But I guess we can all feel good about 14 year old Johnny being shielded from this evil by our superhuman government.

No - it's not societies role - it's the parents - until the kids turn 18.

I dont smoke but are very angry the government thinks it shoiuld make all the decisions. I do not like the idea of living in a Nanny state or something worse if they get away with this what will be next cant people decide for themselves what is good or bad. I have nothing to gain either way just do not like to be told how to think and what to do every moment. I am able to say no to smoking without inference from the governmen t why can't others is the government saying we are all weaklings who can not think for our selves what a load of rubbish what about the thousands of people who have made choices for themselves.

And just like that billion dollar brands become worthless.

Having quit a 40 per day / 40 year habit four years ago I support anything the government can do to have a go at the parasite tobacco companies.

Interesting to see BAT / Tobacco execs being interviewed over this issue and when asked about the morals and ethics of such a product - all they could sheepishly claim was that the product is legal and they own the intelectual property rights on their branded products.

They didn't answer the question. A turkey never asks for an early Christmas either.

Perhaps the government could insist the tobacco companies list all the mad-made chemicals added to the tobacco as part of the labelling requirements? I understand there are hundred's of additives added designed to addict and make the tobacco burn faster.

Perhaps a better move would be to classify tobacco as a class C ot B drug which requires to be properly licensed and prescribed. This would also require the tobacco suppliers to demonstrate that smoking is somehow a cure for something and has no deadly side effect - oh wait....

At the end of the day BAT might be pissed about the plain packaging, but I bet they're loving this campaign, while not directly advertising their product they still get to advertise tobacco my mentioning it.

I'm with True Kiwi, although a current smoker.

John B: You're right, no one held a gun to my 10 year old head.

Plain packaging will not stop people smoking. Any one who starts smoking these days can only blame themselves - not fancy branding.
So what's next? Plain packaged sugar, fastfood, cars, coffee...hell, let's plain package the sun while we're at it.

The hypocrisy of 2012 - where man-made pollutants and chemicals can be added to a plant in the pursuit of Corporate profit - where these products are known World-wide to cause all manner of social and individual ills... - yet for another plant that has possibly 1000 other uses it has become public enemy #1 in the eyes of law enforcement - because of politicking from cotton and textile manufacturers in the USA going back to around 1930-1940. Those vested-interest laws created back then have only been reinforced - not evaluated on it's true merits / value to society.

Hypocrisy and plainly wrong laws here need fixing Politicians - not more populist rhetoric that just ignores the issues, problems, and the HUGE benefits this other plant has for mankind - even if some use it as a hallucinogen.

Sort this hypocrisy and here is a Multi-Billion dollar medical marijuana industry the World needs and is screaming out for!

Imagine teaming up with Fonterra - creating measurable and quantifiable doses of medical marijuana butter for sufferers of chronic pain and illness's - here's a R&D initiative that could have HUGE "first-mover" advantages for NZ Inc...

...and if you thought Pinus Radiata grew fast in NZ... what crop supports half of Northland and most of Coromandel already? Don’t know – ask a police officer in those area’s!

Please Mr. Key - pragmatic thinking here would generate excellent solutions and outcomes for NZ Inc - at a hugely desperate time in NZ's evolution as we try and battle the hang-over from the linger effects of the GFC.

Start the debate on all the facts - no propaganda or rhetoric - just a wholly truthful cost/benefit analysis please... it's 2012 and chronically ill people the world over need natural alternatives to the caustic and often debilitating man-made medications.

basic argument tendered by BAT--WHAT has ip rights etc to do with health issues and offending products--the right to apply fr and obtain ip mark--does not confer the right to sell products which are proven harmful to the public

Funny how ther dope peddlers are not at all worried about packaging.

BAT tries to fight some of the best work the government has worked on in years. These people knowingly promote a product which if used correctly kills people, they also knowingly market this product to the young and very brand aware, after all when was the last time you knew someone in their 30's or over take up smoking. BAT obviously don't care about their customers otherwise they would remove their product form the shelf. The truth is they are worried that the big fat profit is going to disappear and that this sad fashion statement is finally going to disappear too. At this rate I'll have to vote Maori party next election!!!

"Our branding is property - intellectual property - and the government shouldn't be able to take that away."

The government isn't taking away the brand but several curtailing where it maybe used. If this was to become law the government will not own BAT IP, the IP will still be owned by BAT.

Personally I have zero sympathy for BATs position. NZ Government is there is make laws for the betterment of NZ.

If you create it, you should own it eh? ! How about lung cancer, throat cancer, mouth cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and blindness, ..OWN THAT you evil merchants of death !

They killed my father, that wasn't art.

Hate tobacco companies but as an employee of a media company with all the challenges it is facing as high-margin print declines and low-margin digital fails to make up the shortfall, I have to grudgingly say "thanks British American Tobacco for helping me keep my job".