HC Deb 20 July 1998 vol 316 cc401-2W
Mrs. Dunwoody

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will take steps to ensure that United Kingdom consumers continue to benefit from high street retailers importing branded goods from outside the EU on a parallel basis. [51217]

Mr. Ian McCartney

Under present United Kingdom legislation (the Trade Marks Act 1994) trade mark rights cannot be used to prevent or control parallel importation into this country of genuine goods, that is, goods already put on the market by, or with the consent of, trade mark owners, but this reduction in their rights applies only to goods put on the market in the European Economic Area (EEA). Under current legislation, goods put on the market outside the EEA do not come within this exception. Trade mark owners may, if they wish, use their rights to prevent or control the importation into the United Kingdom of such goods. However, the effects of the exercise of rights in this way is subject to the requirements of European and domestic law governing supply and competition.

The issue of parallel importation from outside the EEA into EC Member States is important for the operation of the European Single Market. The European Commission is currently undertaking a major study to investigate the economic effects of the use of trade marks and other intellectual property rights in relation to parallel importation. We will consider the results of this work very carefully when they emerge towards the beginning of next year, and we intend to take a strong part in the discussions and decisions which follow.

The Trade Marks Act implements Directive 89/104/EC.

In implementing, the UK Parliament, along with all other Member States, took the view that the Directive required that trade mark owners should be able to use their rights to control or prevent parallel imports from non-EEA countries. This is reflected in the UK Act at Section 12. A recent case before the ECJ (the Silhouette case) questioned this interpretation. The judgment confirms that this interpretation is correct.

The Commission's study into intellectual property rights and their effects on parallel importation was instigated following Dutch objections to provisions in a Directive concerning industrial designs protection, which provisions mirror those of the trade marks Directive.

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