New Russian Constitutional Court ruling: Parallel imports can no longer be routinely destroyed
In the last few years, parallel imports (i.e. imports of genuine branded goods without the trademark owner’s consent) had been effectively prohibited in Russia. In civil proceedings, parallel imported goods were treated the same as counterfeit goods and were subject to confiscation and destruction upon a civil claim by a trademark owner.
However, according to the press release published on the website of the Russian Constitutional Court, on 13 February 2018 the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that the remedies available to trademark owners regarding counterfeit goods must be different from those available regarding parallel imported goods.
The Constitutional Court ruled that confiscation and destruction of parallel imported goods as a remedy is permissible only “in the event of their defective quality or for security purposes, protection of human life and health and environmental and cultural preservation”. Furthermore, the court opined that remedies for parallel imports should not be as severe as those for counterfeit goods unless “material losses from importing genuine but unauthorized goods are comparable to material losses from importing counterfeit goods”.
The Constitutional Court also confirmed that trademark owners’ claims against parallel importers may be recognized as being in bad faith and abusive, when they are aimed at the unjustified limitation of imports into Russia or at overpricing.
The full reasons for the Constitutional Court’s judgment have not yet been published.
It is now already clear that the confiscation and destruction of parallel imported goods will no longer be an easily available remedy for trademark owners.
The current admissibility of alternative remedies to effectively cease parallel imports into Russia (e.g. an import ban or an obligation to export the already imported goods) is still to be clarified in Russian case law.