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Industry wins parallel import trademark case

Published on 24/10/03 at 05:47pm

A new UK High Court ruling has given pharma companies the right to block the sale of re-packaged parallel imports that infringe their copyright.

The ruling does not alter the fundamental rights of parallel importers to re-package and import products, but means removal of the original trademark, 'de-branding; or 'co-branding' that promotes the parallel importer will now be outlawed.

The judge, Mr Justice Laddy, ruled in favour of Lilly, Boehringer Ingelheim and GlaxoSmithKline, who argued that re-packaging or re-labelling that obscures or removes their brand was an infringement of their trademark rights.

Parallel importers must now give manufacturers 15 days' notice before repackaging products, or seven for re-labelling medicines. The importers will still be allowed to re-package products where necessary to meet legal requirement, such as translating a German pack into English.

The judgement overturned an earlier decision made in 2000, which allowed parallel importers much greater scope in re-packaging products.

Mark Connolly, Marketing and Sales Director at Boehringer Ingelheim UK, said: "It has taken us a long time to get to this point and we are very pleased with the outcome. This is an important decision for Boehringer Ingelheim. It means that the widespread practice of some UK importers to re-package foreign products into boxes with their own logo and livery or to replace the trade mark is illegal and that trade mark owners are entitled to damages".

The case, brought against Swingward and Dowelhurst, concerned the parallel import of Lilly's Prozac, GSK's Seroxat, Serevent and Famvir, and Boehringer Ingelheim's Atrovent.

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