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Plain Packaging

CACN is pleased that Canada has sought to join consultations in the World Trade Organization challenge by Ukraine of Australia’s plain packaging regime for tobacco products. The case has implications that could set precedents that are detrimental to the battle against all counterfeit products.

As such, CACN supports a strong message from Canada that it does not support the proposed action of Australia’s plain packaging regime. The regime not only sets a precedent that threatens to adversely affect Canada’s trading rights, possibly leading to excessively-restrictive packaging requirements for any product, arguably raising a health issue, but also has negative implications in the battle against trade in all counterfeit products.

Branding plays a fundamental role in the international market. Distinctive packaging allows traders to differentiate their wares from others and provides a shortcut to consumers in making purchasing decisions based on brand knowledge and perceptions of quality. Packaging is also used by brand owners to defend against counterfeits; for instance, by including overt or covert security measures, embossed logos or distinctive packaging configurations that are difficult to replicate.

Packaging flaws and differences from legitimate product packaging are primary flags used by consumers and law enforcement to identify counterfeit products. The imposition of laws that prevent brand owners from using their established logos and other trademarks to distinguish their products, appears to ignore the vital role branding plays in the effective operation of free and open international markets, as well as the
detrimental effect on the battle against counterfeits.

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