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Thursday, 6 April 2006


AG Sharpston has delivered her opinion in the latest instalment of the Boehringer Ingelheim repackaging saga. She has advised the ECJ to rule as follows:

– The five conditions set out in Joined Cases C-427/93, C-429/93 and C-436/93 Bristol-Myers Squibb [1996] ECR I-3457, [1996] ETMR 1 (‘the BMS conditions’) do not apply where a parallel importer markets in one Member State a pharmaceutical product imported from another Member State in its original internal and external packaging to which the parallel importer has applied an additional external label printed in the language of the Member State of importation.

– The requirement that repackaging be necessary (the first BMS condition) applies merely to the fact of reboxing and does not extend to precise manner and style.

– The requirement that the presentation of the repackaged product be not such as to be liable to damage the reputation of the trade mark or its owner (the fourth BMS condition) is not limited to defective, poor quality or untidy packaging: the issue is whether there is a serious risk that the reputation of the trade mark will be damaged.

– Both inappropriate presentation of the trade mark and incorrect suggestion of a commercial link are capable in principle of damaging the trade mark’s reputation. Whether particular forms of repackaging cause such damage and whether the damage is sufficiently serious to amount to a ‘legitimate reason’ within the meaning of Article 7(2) of Council Directive 89/104 is a question of fact for the national court.

– In circumstances where the importer has failed to give notice but has complied with the other BMS conditions, he infringes by every subsequent importation. It is for the national court to determine the appropriate sanction, which should be effective and dissuasive. It should also be proportionate and therefore should not be equal to the sanction that would apply if the other BMS conditions had also been breached.

– The parallel importer bears the burden of proving compliance with the first, second, third and fifth BMS conditions. The trade mark owner bears the burden of proving serious risk of damage to the reputation of the trade mark or himself (the fourth BMS condition).

The IPKat says that from a cursory glance, it looks like there's something for both sides of the dispute in this.

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