What is parallel import of products?

Parallel import of products is import of original products by importers that are not part of the distribution channels agreed by the holder of the industrial property rights, i.e. the importer imports original products without having an agency agreement or a distribution agreement with the holder of the industrial property rights.

Products imported as parallel imports are also referred to as “gray imported products” or “gray market goods” because the importer does not have an agency agreement or distribution agreement with the industrial property right holder.

However, we would like to emphasize that the products imported as parallel imports are not counterfeit or non-original products, but rather, they are original products that are imported through a parallel channel, i.e., through a channel that is not controlled by the holder of the industrial property.

For example, on the market of the Republic of North Macedonia, can be found computers, electronic products or other products of well-known brands, i.e. products that are marked with well-known trademarks, which are original products, but were not produced for the market of the Republic of North Macedonia, they were produced for other markets, but in the Republic of North Macedonia were imported as parallel imports.

The role of the Customs Administration in parallel import

In the Republic of North Macedonia, the Law on Customs Measures for Implementation of Protection of Intellectual Property Rights is in force, this law enables the holder of a trademark right, by submitting a Request for undertaking customs actions by the customs authorities, to prohibit import of products suspected of infringing his trademark right.

According to this Law, when there are products in the customs procedure for which there is a suspicion that they infringe the right of a trademark, the Customs Administration has the legal competence to temporarily keep the products that are suspected of infringing the right of a trademark, until in an appropriate procedure it is proven whether these are original products or products that infringe a trademark right.

However, we would like to emphasize that the Customs Administration has no competence to keep goods that are original goods, and which goods on the territory of the Republic of North Macedonia are imported by a legal entity that does not have an agreement with the trademark right holder or is not part of his distribution channel, that is, it is imported as a parallel import.

Case law

The case law in the Republic of North Macedonia is still poor regarding the question whether the import of products as parallel import is a violation of a protected trademark right or an abuse of the rights held by the proprietor of the protected trademark.

However, in 2020 and 2021, the Supreme Court of the Republic of North Macedonia ruled that the importer who imported original products in the Republic of North Macedonia as parallel imports did not abuse, i.e. did not infringe a trademark right.

Danger to the consumer when buying products imported as parallel imports

Products that are imported as parallel imports hide certain dangers for the consumer who bought such a product, regardless of whether it is an original product.

Namely, these products are not covered by the repair policy and therefore the service support will not be covered by the production guarantee.

Also, these products may not be included in the promotional campaigns, and the packaging itself may have power supplies (cable / adapter) or other accessories that are not compatible with the standards in the Republic of North Macedonia.

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