Slovenia Passes Law Introducing Plain Tobacco Packaging from 2020
On February 15, 2017, the Slovenian Parliament unanimously adopted the new Act on the Restriction on the Use of Tobacco and Related Products (“Tobacco Act”) that came into force on March 11, 2017. With the new Tobacco Act, Slovenia has implemented the Directive 2014/40/EU (“Tobacco Products Directive”) into its legislation. Although the plain packaging provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive are not mandatory, Slovenia opted to introduce them and joined the group of countries with restrictive tobacco legislation. Plain packaging will become obligatory in Slovenia as of January 1, 2020.
The most important novelties that might have a negative impact on intellectual property rights with respect to tobacco products are labeling and packaging provisions of Articles 13 to 23 of the Tobacco Act.
The new Act strictly prescribes health warnings, general warnings and information messages that will have to cover large parts of the unit packet and outside packaging surfaces (Articles 13, 14 and 15). It prescribes the texts, font and size of general warnings and information messages and the dimensions of the combined health warnings.
Article 17 prohibits certain elements and features (which may include symbols, trademarks and figurative elements) on the unit packets, the outside packaging or the tobacco products themselves that could create a false impression about the characteristics and health effects of the product.
The plain tobacco packaging provisions are contained in Article 18 (cigarette packaging), Article 19 (roll-your-own tobacco packaging) and Article 20 (cigarette appearance). Article 18 prescribes uniform appearance of the unit packets, the outside packaging (including surfaces inside these packages), and any other element of a cigarette packaging, which must be of the uniform color and appearance that will be specified by the bylaws adopted by the Ministry of Health.
Moreover, a trademark and the type of cigarettes may appear only once on certain surfaces of the unit packet or the outside packaging, which are (1) the front surface, (2) one of the smallest surfaces and (3) the surface opposite the smallest surface.
As regards the cigarette appearance, the Tobacco Act stipulates a uniform color of the cigarette paper and cigarette filter and limits the reference to trademarks and types of cigarettes only to instances when they are in accordance with detailed conditions which will be prescribed by separate bylaws of the Ministry of Health to be adopted within six months of March 11, 2017.
Interestingly, Article 21 of the Tobacco Act states that the above provisions do not prohibit trademark registration and will be a legitimate reason for not using a trademark.
The provisions of Articles 18, 19 and 20 (plain tobacco packaging and individual cigarette appearance) will apply as of January 1, 2020.
For newly regulated health warnings, general warnings, information messages and combined health warnings that came into force on March 11, 2017, the Tobacco Act prescribes a transitional period. Tobacco products that were manufactured before March 11, 2017 can be offered for sale until May 20, 2017. Following this date, tobacco products not containing the prescribed health and other warnings must be withdrawn from sale.
Prepared by: Andrej Bukovnik and Barbara Mencin
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Source: Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia
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