Australia has won its court case against tobacco giant Philip Morris

Lighting up. Photo: Getty Images

The federal government has won its plain packaging court case against Philip Morris.

The case had been brought in Singapore by a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of the tobacco giant, but in a unanimous decision the tribunal decided that it did not have jurisdiction over the matter.

Philip Morris was challenging the Gillard Government’s plain packaging legislation – requiring cigarettes to be sold in olive green packages devoid of logos.

Major tobacco companies including Philip Morris and British American tobacco originally mounted a challenge in the Australian courts, claiming the government was “acquiring their intellectual property” without proper compensation. This was dismissed by the High Court in 2012.

Following the loss in the Australian High Court, Philip Morris initiated a new action under the Hong Kong – Australia Bilateral Investment Treaty. The case hinged on the plain packaging laws breaching the commitment for the promotion and protection of investments between Hong Kong and Australia.

But the Singaporean courts decision to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds means there has not been a ruling on the legality of the plain packaging legislation, as the counsel for Philip Morris notes.

“It is regrettable that the outcome hinged entirely on a procedural issue that Australia chose to advocate instead of confronting head on the merits of whether plain packaging is legal or even works,” said Marc Firestone, Philip Morris International Senior Vice President and General Counsel.

“There is nothing in today’s outcome that addresses, let alone validates, plain packaging in Australia or anywhere else.”