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Sebago Inc. and Ancienne Maison Dubois & Fils SA v. GB-Unic SA

  • Patricia Egli and Juliane Kokott

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1 In aprocedure under Article 234 (previously Article 177) of the Treaty Establishing The European Community, Mar. 25, 1957, 298 UNTS 11, as amended by Treaty of Amsterdam, Oct. 2, 1997, reprinted in 37 ILM 56, 82 (1998) [hereinafter EC Treaty]. Recent cases of the Court of Justice are available online at <>.

2 Firs t Council Directive 89/104/EEC to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks, 1989 O.J. (L40) 1 [hereinafter Trademark Directive], incorporated in the Agreement on the European Economic Area, May 2, 1992, 1994 O.J. (L 1) 3 [hereinafter EEA Agreement].

3 The principle of international exhaustion of trademark rights was recognized for the first time in Continental Europe by the German Supreme Court (Reichsgericht) in 1902 in a case involving parallel imports of wine. The plaintiff, a French manufacturer, produced wine and put it into circulation under registered trademarks. The producer assigned as its exclusive distributor for Germany a dealer domiciled in Berlin. The defendant imported original wine bearing the original trademark from France into Germany. The German Supreme Court dismissed the action brought by the trademark owner and held that because the wine was put into circulation in France, the German trademark right had been exhausted. See RG, May 2, 1902 (Mariani), 51 RGZ 263.

4 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994, Apr. 15, 1994, Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, Annex 1A, The Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations: The Legal Texts 21 (1994) [hereinafter Results], reprinted in 33 ILM 28 (1994).

5 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, Apr. 15, 1994, Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, Annex 1C, Results, supra note 4, at 365, reprinted in 33 ILM 81 (1994).

6 Article 7, para. 1 provides, “The trade mark shall not entitle the proprietor to prohibit its use in relation to goods which have been put on the market in the Community under that trade mark by the proprietor or with his consent.”

7 Case C–355/96, 1998 ECR I–4799.

8 Id., paras. 22, 27.

9 Id., paras. 23–25.

10 Id., para. 26.

11 Germany: BGH, Jan. 22, 1964 (Maja), 1964 Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht—Internationaler Teil [hereinafter GRUR—Int’l] 202; BGH, Feb. 2, 1973 (Cinzano), 1973 GRUR—Int’l 562; Benelux: Explanatory Note to Art. 13A(3) of the Uniform Law; Austria: OGH, Nov. 30, 1970 (Agfa), 1971 GRUR—Int’l 20; Sweden: High Ct., Oct. 17, 1967 (Polycolor), 1968 GRUR—Int’l 22; Finland: Ct. App., Nov. 25, 1992 (Mobil), 1994 GRUR—Int’l 432; Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway: affirmed by EFTA Ct. in Mag Instrument Inc. v. California Trading Company Norway, Ulsteen, Case E–2/97, 1997 Rep. EFTA Ct. 127, para. 4.

12 France: Cass. com., Apr. 17, 1969 (Körting), RIPIA 5 (1970); United Kingdom: Revlon Inc. v. Cripps & Lee Ltd., Nov. 22, 1979, 11 IIC 372 (1980).

13 France: Cass. com., Dec. 2, 1997 (Ocean Pacific), 1998 GRUR—Int’l 717; United Kingdom: High Ct. of Justice, Apr. 18, 1988 (Colgate), 1989 GRUR—Int’l 320.

14 See Willy Alexander, Exhaustion of Trade Mark Rights in the European Economic Area, 24 Eur. L. Rev. 56 (1999).

15 BGH, Dec. 14, 1995 (“Levi’s-dyedjeans”), 1996 Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht:Zeitschrift der Deutschen Vereinigung für Gewerblichen Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht [hereinafter GRUR], 271.

16 See Carl Baudenbacher, Trademark Law and Parallel Imports in a Globalized WorldRecent Developments in Europe with Special Regard to the Legal Situation in the United States, 22 Fordham Int’l L.J. 675 (1999).

17 United States: Quality King Distrib. Inc. v. L’anza Research Int’l Inc., 118 S.Ct. 1125 (1998); Japan: Sup. Ct., July 1, 1997 (Kraftfahrzeugfelgen III), 1998 GRUR—Int’l 168.

18 Bundesgericht, Oct. 23, 1996 (Chanel), BGE 122 II 469, 1997 GRUR—Int’l 520; see Carl Baudenbacher & Gallus Joller, Bundesgericht erlaubt Parallelimporte, 2 Schweizerische Zeitschriftfür Wirtschaftsrecht 91 (1997); Bundesgericht, July 20, 1998 (Nintendo), BGE 124 II 321; Bundesgericht, Dec. 7, 1999 (Kodak) Judgment 4C.24/1999, in Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Dec. 8, 1999, at 25.

19 Mag Instrument Inc. v. California Trading Co. Norway, Ulsteen (“Maglite”), Case E–2/97, 1997 Rep. EFTA Ct. 127.

20 See Alexander, supra note 14 at 62.

21 See Florian Albert & Christopher Heath, Markenrecht und Paralleleinfuhr, 1998 GRUR 645.

22 See Case C–337/95 Parfums Christian Dior SA and Parfums Christian Dior BV v. Evora BV, 1997 ECRI–6013, para. 39.

23 Mag Instrument Inc., 1997 Rep. EFTA Ct. at paras. 19–20; see Frank Woolridge, The Silhouette Case: The Trade Marks Directive and International Exhaustion, 4 I.P.Q. 440 (1998).

24 Agreement between the EFTA States on the Establishment of a Surveillance Authority and a Court of Justice, available in <>.

25 See Opinion 1/91 of the ECJ, 1991 ECRI–6079, regarding the Draft Agreement between the Community, on the one hand, and the EFTA countries, on the other, relating to the creation of the EEA.

26 Mag Instrument Inc., 1997 Rep. EFTA Ct. at para 27.

27 GATT 1994, supra note 4.

28 TRIPS, supra note 5.

29 Article 6 of TRIPS reads as follows: “For the purposes of dispute settlement under this Agreement, subject to the provisions of Articles 3 and 4 above nothing in this Agreement shall be used to address the issue of the exhaustion of intellectual property rights.”

30 Article 16, para. 1, cl. 1 of TRIPS reads as follows: “The owner of a registered trademark shall have the exclusive right to prevent all third parties not having the owner’s consent from using in the course of trade identical or similar signs for goods or services which are identical or similar to those in respect of which the trademark is registered where such use would result in a likelihood of confusion.”

31 See Thomas Cottier, Das Problem der Parallelimporte im Freihandelsabkommen Schweiz-EG und im Recht der WTOGATT, 1 Schweizerische Mitteilungen Über Immaterialgüterrecht 57 (1995).

32 See Marc Stucki, Trademarks and Free Trade 44 (1997).

33 See Stanislaw Soltysinski, International Exhaustion of Intellectual Property Rights under the TRIPS, the EC Law and the Europe Agreements, 1996 GRUR—Int’l 319.

34 See Erwin Bollinger, Die Regelung der Parallelimporte im Recht der WTO, 6 Zeitschrift für Immaterialgüter-, Informations- und Wettbewerbsrecht 552 (1998); Cottier, supra note 31 at 57; Stucki, supra note 32 at 54.

35 First Report (Final) to the Committee on International Trade Law ofthe International Law Association on the Subject of Parallel Importation (Frederick M. Abbott, Co-Rapporteur), April 1997, cited in Anna Carboni, Cases about Spectacles and Torches: Now, can we see the light?, 12 E.I.P.R. 472 (1998).

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Sebago Inc. and Ancienne Maison Dubois & Fils SA v. GB-Unic SA

  • Patricia Egli and Juliane Kokott

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