A health professional’s guide to the intersection of public health with intellectual property rights in trade and investment: the case of tobacco plain packaging

  • Caitlin PleyEmail author
  • Maarten Rutger van der Heijden
  • Charlotte Tulinius
Original Article


Intellectual property law is a crucial determinant of global public health, capable of both endangering and facilitating advances in the health of populations. This Viewpoint explains the most important aspects of the interaction between intellectual property law and public health. We use the plain packaging of tobacco products to illustrate how public health policies may be subject to scrutiny under existing trade and investment law structures. Plain packaging of tobacco products is challenging to implement due to legal complexities and uncertainties surrounding the status of mandated plain packaging for consumer products. While the tobacco industry and its proponents once relied on the denial of scientific evidence to delay legislation and influence consumers, its tactics have shifted to the use of trade threats and investment disputes, directly challenging the sovereignty of governments to enact bona fide public health measures to improve the health of their population.


Commercial determinants Disease prevention Health policy Intellectual property Tobacco control 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caitlin Pley
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Maarten Rutger van der Heijden
    • 2
  • Charlotte Tulinius
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Clinical MedicineUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeEngland, UK
  2. 2.Department of Medical SciencesUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Department of Public HealthUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  4. 4.Gonville & Caius CollegeCambridgeUK

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