Maintenance and champerty
Those are the marvellous names for the old common law offences/torts involved in persuading others to engage in a lawsuit for your own benefit (feel free to state more precisely, IANAL). They’ve mostly been abolished now, which is probably a good thing in terms of alllowing class actions and similar, and they’ve never applied (AFAIK) in international law.
Nevertheless, a reminder of the reason such laws existed has come with the announcement of a WTO complaint by Ukraine against Australia’s plain packaging laws for cigarettes.
These laws have just been upheld by the High Court, against claims that they represented a “taking” of “intellectual property”, in the form of cigarette brands. Not only is this a great result in substantive terms, but (although reasons have yet to be released) it clearly represents a rejection of extreme claims about property rights in general and IP in particular.
Coming back to the Ukraine case, tobacco trade between Ukraine and Oz is zero, and, AFAICT, the main involvement of the Ukraine in the tobacco industry is that the number of smoking-related deaths is particularly high there.
As no one even bothers to deny, this action has been ginned up by Big Tobacco in a shameless piece of champerty. Actually, it’s a good thing – the WTO is a political court, and it would be suicidal to uphold such a blatant attack on public health. In the process, it may set some precedents that will make future interference with public health laws more difficult.
Still, this is a direct attack by the tobacco companies on Australia’s national sovereignty, and deserves a response. Perhaps we should be looking at a special profits tax on tobacco companies.