According to news sources, Philippine Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued an opinion in May 2012, upholding a Department of Health (DOH) memorandum that prohibited multinational companies that make infant milk and other nutritional products from using registered trademarks that contain health and nutrition claims which may undermine breast-feeding and breast milk. The companies were not prohibited from selling or advertising their products as long as their marketing materials, including product labels, comply with DOH rules. DOH apparently took the action on the basis of data showing that the country has a weak breast-feeding culture.
In issuing her ruling, de Lima rejected the companies’ contention that preventing a trademark owner from the right to use its own registered mark on its products constituted a deprivation of property without due process of law. She reportedly said, “deceptive marks and misdescriptive marks are absolutely unregistrable.” See Business Mirror, June 13, 2012.
Meanwhile, in a related development, concerns over efforts to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products in the United Kingdom are reportedly extending into the food and beverage industries, which are watching such developments closely. A packaging spokesperson was quoted as saying such regulation would set an “extremely dangerous precedent” for other sectors, adding “[w]ith legislation around minimum alcohol pricing in the pipeline, high-profile debates about a ‘fat tax’ and calls for cigarette style health warnings on alcohol and ‘junk food’; brand owners and manufacturers have to open their eyes to the very realistic threat of plain packaging being introduced on a wide range of consumer products.” See FoodProductiondaily. com, June 15, 2012.