Wednesday 12 February 2014

Can an EU resident purchase a counterfeit product from a Chinese online sales website, even if it is for private use?

By Frank Williams
Vía Wikipedia

The user will certainly be able to buy it. But may never end up receiving it: on entry of the counterfeit product into the EU territory the Regulation relating to the seizure by customs authorities of goods suspected of infringing intellectual property rights will be applied and, as a result, the counterfeit product will be seized and, as the case may be, destroyed.

This is the judgment handed down by the Court of Justice (Second Chamber) in case C-98/13, which was just published on 6 February 2014.

The facts of the case date back to January 2010 when a Danish citizen (Mr. Blomqvist) bought a Rolex watch from a Chinese online sales website and paid for it through the same website. The parcel was sent from Hong Kong to the address of Mr. Blomquvist in Denmark, but was seized by the Danish customs authorities pursuant to EC Regulation no. 1383/2003, which was in force at the time, on grounds of infringement of the industrial and intellectual property rights of the rightholder, Rolex. The Danish importer opposed the destruction of the watch on the grounds that he had bought it lawfully for his own personal use.

The Court of Justice ruled that, although the sale of the goods occurred through a website located in a country outside of the EU, the holder of the industrial and intellectual property rights cannot be denied the protection afforded to that holder by the customs regulation and that, as a result, the counterfeit goods must be prevented from entering the EU territory. It is not necessary to check whether the goods have previously been the subject of an offer for sale or advertising targeting European consumers, because the sale has been accredited.

Consequently, this judgment represents a serious warning to those purchasing goods online: counterfeit goods purchased from websites outside of the EU can be seized and destroyed when they enter EU territory, irrespective of the use made of them.

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