Imminent resolution for BAT copyright dispute with Tank

Design group and publisher Tank expects not to have to pulp one of its cigarette packstyle books, following ‘amicable’ negotiations with British American Tobacco.

Design group and publisher Tank expects not to have to pulp one of its cigarette packstyle books, following ‘amicable’ negotiations with British American Tobacco.

The publisher and the global tobacco company have been in talks for six weeks, after BAT wrote to Tank claiming that the cover of Tank’s abridged version of Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Undefeated (see picture, right) too closely resembles the box design of cigarette brand Lucky Strike.

Both companies say they expect a resolution to the dispute in the next few days. According to Tank, BAT asked for all books to be recalled and delivered to BAT’s London office, where the tobacco manufacturer said it would arrange for them to be pulped. ‘BAT came down on us hard. We were very shocked,’ says Tank’s Julie-anne Edwards.

‘After ten years you think you have a feel for copyright issues, but not in this case.’ A BAT spokesman says, ‘We would always approach anyone using one of our brands, or a design that closely resembled them, without our permission – regardless of who they are. We’ve got a policy at British American Tobacco to try to resolve all disputes amicably, if the circumstances are right, and talks with Tank are ongoing.’

The book at the centre of the dispute is part of a series of abridged novels packaged in cigarette pack style cartons called Take Your Breath Away, which Tank published last summer to coincide with the smoking ban.

‘We are paying homage to the classic piece of design that is the flip-top cigarette carton,’ says Edwards. ‘We wanted an American-looking design for the Hemingway book, and referenced packets with circular designs on them in general.’ Tank denies that it was parodying Lucky Strike.

However, if it had published the book next year instead of last, Tank’s right to parody might have been enshrined in law. The Government is currently consulting on a recommen dation that could protect those intending to ‘parody, pastiche or caricature’ the ideas of other companies.

Anti Copying in Design chief executive Dids Macdonald warns that since this copyright issue is still under consultation, any law might end up protecting the ideas of those wishing not to be parodied. Macdonald advises designers who want to pastiche a design to approach the originator. ‘As a small consultancy, the last thing you want is to be on the wrong end of a court case with a huge multinational,’ she says.

‘Luckily, BAT seems to be taking a sensible approach, realising that there is nothing to be gained by heavy litigation.’


• Acid is calling on designers to engage in the Government’s copyright consul tation process, which closes in April
• To read the copyright consultation paper, visit consult-copyrightexceptions.htm, and e-mail your response to

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