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Parliamentary questions

by Klaus-Heiner Lehne (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(02 February 2000)

Subject: The Commission's attitude towards the problem of the exhaustion of trade mark rights and the admissibility of parallel imports

The effect of Article 7 of the EU trade mark directive (89/104/EEC)(1) is that since 1995 at the latest the principle of 'international exhaustion' of trade mark rights hitherto applied in many Member States has been replaced with the principle of 'European exhaustion' in the trade mark law of the EU Member States. Since that date, and in particular with regard to the 'Silhouette' and 'Sebago' rulings of the European Court of Justice, there has been no room for parallel imports of favourable branded goods from outside the EU. In its report of 1 December 1999 the Commission summarises the discussion hitherto and looks into various options for changing the law, although without taking sides on retaining or amending the present principle of exhaustion.

1. In its assessment of the question of whether commercial parallel imports from outside the EU should be possible in the future, what importance does the Commission attach to the increasing supply of low-cost branded goods from EU third countries direct to the final consumer via the Internet? Does it agree that the increasing demand on the part of private customers via the Internet causes considerable problems for retailers and mail order businesses if the latter do not, obtain supplies of low-cost parallel imports and hence are not able to offer low prices?

2. Has the Commission taken note of representations by the sector affected that the legal position as it stands now results in permissible intra-European parallel trade in branded goods being effectively restricted and subject to uncertainties if stocks in hand include, unknown to businesses, products from impermissible third country imports which would result in legal action being taken by manufacturers of branded goods against such businesses? Does the Commission intend to draw conclusions from these representations in the near future and provide remedy?

3. In the light of the criticism expressed at the 'n/e/r/a report', does the Commission intend to arrange a further questionnaire or study to clarify matters before any decision is taken?

4. Does the Commission intend to make the issue of international rules on exhaustion of trade mark rights a topic for the forthcoming WTO negotiations? If not, why not?

(1) "0"> OJ L 40, 11.2.1989, p. 1

Original language of question: DE
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