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Parallell importing

In parallel importing, the genuine product is imported, but it enters Norway outside the trademark holder's own distribution network. Parallel importing is not the same thing as piracy. Parallel importing, as a rule, is legal.
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Photo: Thinkstock

After the trademark holder has sold the product for the first time within the EU/EEA area or has consented to such sale, he loses control over use of the trademark on the product. Right to the mark is exhausted. This means that an importer or someone who wishes to sell the product onward can freely do so without infringing the sole right of the trademark holder. The same applies to patents.

Marketing and onward sale

Since the trademark right is exhausted on the first voluntary sale, the goods may be imported and sold bearing the original trademark. A used-car dealer, for example, can freely state what makes of car he sells. There are nevertheless some restrictions on the right of the parallel importer to engage in marketing.

As a parallel importer, you cannot advertise a product in a way that harms the reputation of the brand, and you are not allowed to present yourself as an authorised dealer.

The trademark must not be used to a greater extent than you need for onward sale of the product. You can safely state that you sell the product, but be careful in using the trademark holder's logo, as depending on the circumstances this may harm the reputation of the brand. The actual presentation of the goods may be detrimental to the trademark holder's reputation, for example if exclusive brands are sold from a pallet in a warehouse, or if a luxury product is shown in a sales brochure alongside typical groceries.

In purely legal terms, the question is whether the trademark holder has reasonable grounds for opposing use of the mark. If you are a parallel importer you should steer clear of the original trademark when choosing a domain name, but as a rule you can use the brand name in advertising.

Repacking

What rules apply to the repacking of goods? Can the parallel importer remove the product from the original packaging?

Repacking can only be done if it is necessary to gain effective access to the market where the product is to be sold. There may be rules stipulating how the product has to be packed.

Repacking is not allowed if market access can be obtained more simply, for example by attaching a label to the original packaging.

If it is necessary to repack the product to obtain real access to the market in the country of import, the repacking must be done in a way that does not harm the reputation and image of the trademark.

 

Last update: 26. March 2015