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Type of Litigation: Enforcement Action by a Private Individual or Private Entity

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National Committee for Tobacco Control v. S.A. Philip Morris Products, et al. [France] [May 15, 2019]

The National Committee for Tobacco Control (CNCT) filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris Products (Philip Morris) and Ducati Motor Holdings (Ducati) to prevent the companies from using their "Mission Winnow" trademark at an upcoming Grand Prix event in France (French motorcycle Grand Prix at Le Mans) because it would amount to unlawful tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. CNCT also sought disclosure of the partnership agreements between Philip Morris and Ducati.

In its decision, the Le Mans High Court agreed that:

- The colors of the “Mission Winnow” project and its logo clearly recall the Marlboro cigarette brand that has long been associated with motorsports.
- Professionals of the sector knew that the “Mission Winnow” project only conceals sponsorship actions from a tobacco manufacturer.
- The “Mission Winnow” name and logo constitute some reference, although indirect, to tobacco and in particular to the Marlboro brand and its owner, Philip Morris.
- The violation of provisions in the Public Health Code is sufficiently obvious that the use of the “Mission Winnow” logo or even the existence of the project, as well as the partnership agreement with Ducati, can be questioned under the law.

    As a result of these findings, the Court prohibited either company from using the mark, logo or expression “Mission Winnow” under penalty of €10,000 for each violation, and ordered Philip Morris and Ducati to pay €10,000 to CNCT. Additionally, the Court granted CNCT's request for disclosure of the partnership agreement.

    J. Anbazhagan v. Union of India [India] [April 26, 2018]

    J. Anbazhagan, a member of the legislative assembly in the State of Tamil Nadu, filed a writ petition to highlight the illegal manufacture and sale of gutka and pan masala in the state and to urge the High Court of Madras to order an independent investigation into the matter. Mr. Anbazhagan alleged such sales were carried out in collusion with several high dignitaries and bureaucrats, such as central excise officials, central government officials, officials from different state governments, including the Government of Tamil Nadu, councilors of the Chennai Corporation, and officials of the food safety department, among others. The Court observed that it was compelled to take up the case as the issues involved the right to health and directed that the Central Bureau of Investigation investigate the matter, since, among other reasons, central government officials allegedly were involved.  In response to arguments made by the respondents, the Court also clarified that the definition of “food” under Section 3(j) of the Food Safety Act includes any substance, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, which is intended for human consumption and that the definition undoubtedly was wide enough to include gutka, and other forms of chewable tobacco/nicotine products intended for human consumption. The Court further clarified that India’s omnibus tobacco control law, COTPA, and the Food Safety Act were not in conflict, but were meant to be read in conjunction with each other as COTPA does not contain a non-obstante clause that excludes operation of other laws.

    Sherfudeen v. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare [India] [August 01, 2016]

    Individual, A. Sherfudeen, requested that the Madras High Court direct the Central Government to notify and give effect to Section 7(5) of India’s omnibus tobacco control law.  Mr. Sherfudeen claimed that there were several different kinds of tobacco products available in the market and that more than 45% of the Indian population (during the period when the petition was filed) were still using tobacco daily, with or without knowing its ill-effects.  The Court directed the Central Government to provide information regarding when they propose to notify the provision.

    Pranvesh v. Union of India [India] [June 30, 2016]

    A University of Allahabad student filed a writ petition alleging the unabated sale of tobacco to minors and adults in the city of Allahabad. The High Court of Allahabad found that temporary and permanent shops located near schools and other public institutions were making such sales. The Court also found that certain tobacco manufacturers presented misleading information about their products in print and visual media and failed to comply with the requirement for pictorial warnings on tobacco products.  The Court passed the following directions: (1) that all temporary/permanent establishments selling tobacco within a 100 yard radius of educational institutions be removed; (2) that all temporary/permanent establishments selling tobacco within 500 meter radius of the High Court and the District Court be removed; (3) that the sale of tobacco to persons seated in parked cars on roads and road sides be stopped; and (4) that strict action be taken against tobacco manufacturers who violate the requirement for compulsory statutory warnings on their products.

    ASA Adjudication on Fontem Ventures [United Kingdom] [June 29, 2016]

    Information about this decision coming soon. 

    RJR Nabisco et al. v. European Community et al. [United States] [June 20, 2016]

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that RJR Nabisco could not be sued under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for its conduct abroad. The European Union (known as the European Community in this case) sued RJR Nabisco claiming that the company directed and managed a global smuggling and money-laundering scheme with organized crime groups in violation of the RICO law. In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that certain elements of RICO can apply to conduct that occurs outside of the United States. However, the Court also found that a private entity— this case, a foreign government­—cannot sue under RICO in the United States unless it has suffered a domestic injury. Because the European Union had earlier waived its claims of a domestic injury, the Court was forced to dismiss the EU’s remaining claims. 

    Black v. Secretary of State for Justice [United Kingdom] [March 08, 2016]

    A prisoner claimed that smoking should be prohibited inside a state-run prison. The lower court ruled that the national law prohibiting smoking in workplaces also applied to prisons, including state prisons. The Secretary of State for Justice appealed the decision. The appeals court found that the state is not bound by the national law prohibiting smoking in the workplace. Therefore, the prison is not required to implement the smoking ban. 

    In re NJOY, Inc. Consumer Class Action Litigation [United States] [February 02, 2016]

    A court ruled that a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker NJOY could not proceed as a class action. Potential class members had asserted that NJOY: (1) conducted misleading advertising indicating that e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes; and (2) omitted information on its packaging about product ingredients and the risks of such ingredients. The court affirmed an earlier ruling prohibiting the lawsuit from proceeding as a class action, saying that class members failed to demonstrate how damages can be proven for the entire class. Specifically, the court said that the class was not able to show how it could calculate the difference between the price paid by consumers of NJOY and the true market price that reflects the impact of the unfair or fraudulent business practices. Although the ruling means that the case may not proceed as a class action, individuals may sue NJOY independently.  

    Bhandari v. Laming [Australia] [October 16, 2015]

    A landlord was ordered to pay compensation to his tenant (a percentage of the rent and moving costs) for breaching a rental agreement. The tenant moved out due to an ongoing issue of smoke drifting from a downstairs apartment. The appeals panel which heard the case agreed there was a structural ventilation problem with the building which allowed smoke to flow into the apartment, making it unfit for habitation. Although the landlord was not responsible for the drifting smoke, the panel agreed that he was nevertheless responsible for providing a unit fit for habitation and dismissed the landlord’s appeal.

    Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in the inquiry into complaint 852/2014/LP against the European Commission regarding its compliance with the Tobacco Control Convention [European Union] [October 01, 2015]

    A non-governmental organization (NGO) complained that the European Commission was violating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires parties to protect against commercial and other vested interests of tobacco companies. The European Ombudsman agreed with the NGO that the European Commission’s policies did not provide sufficient transparency about its meetings with tobacco industry representatives. The Ombudsman recommended that the Commission put into place a policy—similar to the policy currently in place by the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety—that requires online publication of all meetings with tobacco industry representatives and publication of the minutes from those meetings.