1 Feb 2019

After extensive review and evaluation of available international and local studies, research, and evidence on plain packaging, the Ministry of Health (MOH) of Singapore announced that it will be introducing standardised packaging with enlarged graphic health warnings for all tobacco products, beginning in 2020.

Singapore joins seven countries that have implemented similar laws, including Australia, which was the first country to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products in 2012. While not final, the proposed amendments to the new Plain Packaging Law include having the plain packaging in a standard dark brown colour and the brand name in a standardised font style and colour in a specified location, with a prohibition on noises, scents, or features that might change after sale, such as those activated by heat or that appear under fluorescent light.

The standard packaging proposal also involves:

  • The removal of all logos, colours, brand images, and promotional information on the packaging of tobacco products (other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style); and
  • An increase in the minimum size of the mandatory graphic health warnings from the existing 50 percent to cover 75 percent of all specified tobacco product packaging surfaces.

Amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act make way for plain packaging to be introduced in 2019, while legislative amendments will also be put forth to preserve the legal position for tobacco-related trademarks under the Trade Marks Act and tobacco-related designs under the Registered Designs Act.

On the other hand, prior registered tobacco-related trademarks will be prevented from use once the Plain Packaging Law is passed.

The anticipated amendments to the Trade Marks Act and Registered Designs Act will be drafted to make it clear that the introduction of plain packaging will not form a ground for refusal for registration, or invalidity/revocation of a tobacco-related registered trademark or design, thus assuring those in the tobacco industry that standardised packaging will not affect their ability to otherwise maintain and enforce their intellectual property rights in Singapore.

INTA has been advocating globally against plain and standardised packing legislation. It formalised its position in a Board Resolution passed in May 2015, and more recently responded to the proposed changes in Singapore in comments to the MOH in March and June of 2018.

As stated in INTA’s initial submission to the MOH, “The primary concerns are that standardised packaging laws violate international and national law, and expropriate valuable trademark rights. INTA recommends that governments should use less drastic alternatives to address health and safety goals, such as public educational campaigns, as opposed to disturbing the well-established areas of intellectual property law. The primary function of a trademark is to allow a producer to communicate with a consumer, and any proposed legislation should allow all elements of a trademark, not simply the word mark, to continue functioning in this regard.”

INTA issued this statement following the announcement from the MOH.

This article first appeared in the INTA Bulletin and was reprinted with permission from the International Trademark Association (INTA). Authored by Wai Yeng Chan, Head of IP at Taylor Vinters Via LLC.