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School of Law

Standardised packaging and the right of intellectual property


London, 9 December 2015: This week, the High Court will hear a series of legal challenges brought by the tobacco industry against the United Kingdom’s standardised (or “plain”) packaging regulations for tobacco products.

In March 2015, the UK government secured parliamentary approval for regulations introducing mandatory plain packaging for cigarette and rolling tobacco packets. The regulations are due to come into force in May 2016. Tobacco companies claim that this legislation is unlawful and have brought judicial review proceedings in an attempt to prevent its introduction.

Among other arguments, the companies have suggested that the standardised packaging regulations breach fundamental guarantees of property - particularly intellectual property – to be found in the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. The companies claim that they will be deprived of their intellectual property rights in trademarks, designs and other brand marks, because they will no longer be able to apply them to their tobacco products.

In an article published this month in Intellectual Property Quarterly, Jonathan Griffiths from QMUL’s School of Law considers this argument by detailed reference to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice. His research demonstrates that the right of property in the European legal order has consistently been interpreted by those courts in a manner that leaves considerable flexibility for states which interfere with private interests in pursuit of significant public health goals.

Media enquiries

Mark Byrne
Public Relations Manager (Humanities and Social Sciences)
Queen Mary University of London
T: 020 7882 5378
M: 078 1590 2560

More information

  • The research is published in “’On the Back of a Cigarette Packet’: Standardised Packaging Legislation and the Tobacco Industry’s Fundamental Right to (Intellectual) Property” [2015] Intellectual Property Quarterly.
  • A pre-refereed draft is available from

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