The High Court of Australia [official website] on Wednesday upheld [press release, PDF] a law that requires cigarette packages to display graphic images warning of the dangers of smoking and bans brand logos. The plaintiffs in the case were several tobacco companies which argued that the law in question, the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act [text] unconstitutionally infringed upon their intellectual property rights by banning the use of logos from cigarette packages [BBC report]. The high court held that the Act was within the scope of the powers of the Australian Parliament [official website]:
The plaintiffs sought to rely upon the restraint upon the legislative power of the Commonwealth Parliament found in s 51(xxxi) of the Constitution, which empowers the Parliament to make laws with respect to "the acquisition of property on just terms". The plaintiffs argued that some or all of the provisions of the Act were invalid because they were an acquisition of the plaintiffs' property otherwise than on just terms. At least a majority of the Court is of the opinion that the Act is not contrary to s 51(xxxi).A more detailed judgment from the court is expected soon.
The Tobacco Plain Packaging Act has raised controversy since it was enacted [JURIST report] in November. In December, JURIST guest columnist Allyn Taylor opined [JURIST op-ed] that a successful lawsuit by tobacco companies challenging the Plain Packaging Act could be a major setback for government efforts to protect the public from the dangers of tobacco. Earlier in December, a major tobacco company, Imperial Tobacco [corporate website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the Plain Packaging Act. This came on the heels of another tobacco company, British-American Tobacco [corporate website] challenging the Act [JURIST report]. In November, Philip Morris Ltd. [corporate website] initiated legal proceedings [JURIST report] to block enforcement of the Act.