In early 2015, Ireland became the first EU Member State to introduce plain or standardised packaging for tobacco products. The Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 was signed into law on 10 March 2015, grounded on measures contemplated, but not mandated, by the new EU Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU). The measures mandated by the act will come into effect on a phased basis between May 2016 and May 2017.
This legislation and similar legislation enacted in the UK has been heavily criticised by commentators and, predictably, by the tobacco companies, as the effective invalidation of trade marks for tobacco products.
A preliminary reference challenging the validity of the new EU Directive was the subject of a preliminary opinion issued by Advocate General Juliane Kokott ("AG") of the Court of Justice of the European Union ("CJEU") on 23 December 2015. The AG concluded that the Directive of 2014 was lawfully adopted. While the AG’s Opinion is not binding, the CJEU rarely departs from the underlying opinion of the AG in its decisions so it would seem standardised packaging is here to stay.