Exhaustion of IP rights and parallel trade


Last updated 21 June 2021

This guidance is for businesses trading in parallel goods in the European Economic Area (EEA) and owners of intellectual property rights.

Parallel trade is the import and export of genuine intellectual property (IP) protected goods. Parallel trade occurs when the intellectual property rights in those goods are ‘exhausted’. That is, they have been placed on the market within a specific territory by, or with the permission of, the rights holder. The exhaustion of IP rights means that IP rights cannot be used to stop the further distribution or resale of those goods.

Parallel exports from the UK to the EEA

Goods placed on the UK market by, or with the consent of, the right holder may no longer be considered exhausted in the EEA.

This means that businesses exporting these IP-protected goods from the UK to the EEA might need the right holder’s consent.

Actions for parallel exporters of IP-protected goods to the EEA

Check whether you export IP-protected goods to the EEA (for example, goods branded with a trade mark) that have already been placed on the UK market.

You may need to contact the rights holder to get permission to export those goods. The IP rights holder may not provide permission for their IP-protected goods to be parallel exported to the EEA.

You may need to review your business arrangements, business model or supply chain based on the outcome of the discussion with the IP rights holder.

Actions for IP rights holders

Businesses that own IP rights (for example, a trade mark) may wish to seek legal advice if their IP-protected goods are parallel exported from the UK to the EEA. You will need to consider if you want to allow parallel exports of your IP-protected goods from the UK to the EEA.

Parallel imports from the EEA to the UK

The IP rights in goods placed on the EEA market by, or with the consent of the right holder continue to be considered exhausted in the UK. This means that parallel imports into the UK from the EEA are unaffected.

First published 26 November 2020