Glossary / Parallel Import

Parallel Import

Parallel import, also known as the import of grey market goods, exists when genuine goods, containing intellectual property rights, are imported for sale on markets and territories without the brand owner’s explicit consent. A simple example would be an item bearing a trademark, for example a coffee maker, which is sold on and intended for the United States market, but is then imported from the United States to the European Union without the trademark owner’s permission. In that case, even though the goods are genuine, the act of importing to a country, for which the rights owner has not given their explicit consent, would constitute an intellectual property rights infringement – parallel import.

What is important to mention is that parallel import could occur for products protected by copyright[1], trademarks[2] and patents[3]. The rules in relation to parallel import depend on the territorial application of the rights in question. From European Union law viewpoint this act is prohibited as the ECJ has established in early case law.[4]

[1] Directive (EU) 2001/29/EC, art. 4.

[2] Regulation (EU) 2017/1001, art. 9(2)(c) and Directive (EU) 2015/2436, art. 10(3)(c).

[3] C-15/74, Centrafarm B.V. and Adriaan de Peijper v. Sterling Drug Inc., 6 IIC 102 (1975) Negram III.

[4] C-10/89, Cnl-Sucal NV SA v HAG GF AG (1990), C-9/93, IHT International Heiztechnik v Ideal Standard (1994), C-55/0 and C-57/80, Musik-Vertrieb Membran and K-tel Int. v GEMA (1981).

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