BAT Wins Australian Approval to Pursue Trademark Claim Over Health Labels

British American Tobacco Plc., Europe’s biggest cigarette maker, won an Australian judge’s approval to pursue a claim that its trademark was infringed by a distributor who covered a label with a health warning. Supreme Court of Victoria Judge Elizabeth Hollingworth today dismissed a request from Trojan Trading Co. to throw the case out. “Trojan makes some very valid criticisms of BAT’s proposed cause of action,” Hollingworth wrote in the 19-page ruling posted on the court’s website. “I am not persuaded that BAT’s claim ought to be summarily disposed of.”

British American Tobacco, based in London, is seeking injunctions prohibiting Trojan from covering up labels on packets of Captain Black cigars and the return of profits the distributor earned from the sale of the cigars, or other monetary damages, according to the ruling.

Trojan, a closely held Sydney-based company, distributes cartons and packets of Captain Black cigars. Since at least 2007, Trojan has partly covered or erased the Captain Black label with health stickers, BAT said, according to the judge’s ruling. As a result, BAT’s trademarks have been infringed, the company said.

Trojan is legally obligated to place graphic warning messages on tobacco products before they can be sold in Australia and may have erased or covered the label, the company said. The company is following the law and BAT’s claim is unsustainable, it said.

Intellectual Property

“This is a further demonstration that we will take all necessary steps to protect our valuable intellectual property,” BAT said in an e-mailed statement. The company declined to comment further because the matter is before the court.

Trojan’s legal adviser Peter Zada of Navado said he had been instructed not to comment.

The Australian government has said it will require tobacco products to be sold in plain packs beginning in 2012. BAT has said it will wait to review the law, which it expects the government to put forward early next year, before deciding whether to challenge it in court.

source: bloomberg.com

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