New tobacco branding rules hit trademarks

Indonesia

It has been long coming, but Indonesia’s tobacco regulation appeared over the New Year.

The new regulation aims to improve public health by controlling tobacco products - specifically, cigarette promotion, distribution and packaging. The regulation targets several areas:

  • Misleading promotional terms are prohibited.
  • Use of descriptors such as ‘mild’, ‘slim’ and ‘light’ is banned, on the basis that these words influence consumers to believe that such products are better for them. There is a maze of rules in this topic, stemming from the fact that, as a non-English-speaking nation, many of these descriptors are also part of registered trademarks - some owned by local companies, such as STAR MILD (pictured).

  • 40% of packs must be used for pictorial health warnings, but tobacco companies have an 18-month window to comply.
  • Sponsorship restrictions are clarified.

Indonesia is ‘schizophrenic’ over tobacco, since it is a major industry with 6 million employees, due especially to the unique clove kretek cigarette industry. Indonesia has even supported Ukraine's World Trade Organisation complaint against Australia over its harsh plain packaging rules. Whether these two different approaches within the government can ever be reconciled is hard to see.

Nick Redfearn, Rouse, Indonesia

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