Plain Packaging & Its Impact on IP

What other industries will the UK government extend their plain packaging policy to?


In April 2015 the music industry was boosted by the news that the City of London Police had a new crime unit dedicated to tackling intellectual property (IP) crime.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit will be working in unison with a number of media industries to ensure that organised piracy crime groups aren’t stealing musicians profits.

Whilst this seems all well and good in theory, many online commentators have dubbed IP as just another way to make the rich more money. This was seen with the launch of Tidal, where a star-studded line-up of music stars, including Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna and Madonna, bemoaned the rise of P2P sites which were costing them money.

Tidal claims to reward artists with 75% of its revenue, but when you know that these people are multi-millionaires and even billionaires in some cases, it’s difficult to first care and then secondly perceive the site’s intentions as anything but a little selfish.

Despite this, IP remains an important part of our economy and being seen to be a global leader in the field continues to be imperative.

The UK is in a great position to do this and was voted the second best country for protecting its companies IP. It’s also blessed with a variety of world class universities, all of which contribute directly to research and its innovative working environment.

This is positive news for the UK, but there are certain things which need to be highlighted. The British government’s recent efforts to curb smoking have resulted in a policy of introducing plain packaging. This has been met with a degree of controversy, as tobacco companies use packaging to form a part of their identity.

With the goal clearly to protect the country’s health, people have questioned whether plain packaging for tobacco products could extend into alcohol, snacks and fast-food. This would impact numerous companies and damage a brand which may have taken decades to create.

In addition to this, the UK’s creative industry will be impacted by the emergence of new EU laws. Mandating content availability for example causes financial havoc and also means that private companies will be told which markets they can pursue - leaving behind a dangerous precedent.

Above all, it’s imperative that the EU supports the UK’s creative industry and protects the IP rights they need to be successful. IP has never been more important and the UK needs to keep this in mind if it wants to rejoin the creative powerhouses of France and Germany.


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