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.
Consultation on the UK's future exhaustion of IP rights regime
The government has published a formal consultation to seek views on what the UK's future exhaustion of IP rights regime should be.
The government is interested in responses from businesses, representative organisations, civil society organisations, legal practitioners and creators of new products, technology or creative works.
See the UK's future exhaustion of intellectual property rights regime consultation for further information and how to respond. The consultation closes at 11:45pm on 31 August 2021.
First published 26 November 2020