Intellectual Property: Commissioner backs ban on cheap imports

United Kingdom
Commissioner Mario Monti has voiced his support for maintaining the EU’s ban on reimports of cheap trade-marked goods from outside the Union. In response to a question from a German MEP Mr Monti indicated his support for the current regime, including the principle of “Community exhaustion” of trademark rights. This is likely to disappoint many retailers who had hoped to see the ban lifted to allow them to resell branded goods. The subject hit the headlines when Tesco was sued by Levis for reimporting jeans from outside the EU and selling them at prices below those of Levi’s local stores. The retailers would like to see the exhaustion rights applies internationally allowing them to search the world for cheap branded goods that can be resold in the EU at low prices.

But while the retailers insist consumers could get a better deal with cheaper prices, Commissioner Monti maintained that the trademark directive had heightened EU competition giving a better deal within the Community. He also suggested that the EU’s main competitors did not apply the principle of international exhaustion, however this has been questioned by sources at the Foreign Trade Association who claim that both the US and Japan apply the principle.