Parallel Trade in Europe, fun in Gresham Street

At last, the story can be told: Parallel Trade in Europe: Intellectual Property, Competition and Regulatory Law - written by the IPKat's friend, Milbank solicitor Christopher Stothers - has finally been published. The IPKat attended the launch party on Thursday at Milbank's splendidly appointed offices, and discovered an impressive rollcall of distinguished lawyers in attendance.

Right: Mondrian made parallels into an art form. Has Chris Stothers done the same with parallel trade?

Chris himself is ambidextrous (in the sense that he can cope as comfortably with IP law as competition law), but the IPKat reckoned that the IP lobby outnumbered the competitionists, possibly because IP lawyers take more interest in the effect of competition law on IP rights than competition lawyers do. The event was garlanded with some appropriate comments from Sir Hugh Laddie, who correctly observed that the author's approach to his subject and consequent analysis reflected his trade mark calmness. Sir Hugh's contributions to the evening, both on and off the record, was probably the cause of many of those present spending rather longer there than they had originally intended.

As for the book itself, the publisher's blurb states:

"Are parallel importers the key to free trade, breaking down long-established national barriers for the benefit of all? Or do they instead just operate in a dubious 'grey market' for their own profit, free-loading on the investment of innovators and brand owners to the ultimate detriment of everyone? Parallel trade is in turn lionised and demonised, both in legal commentary and in the mainstream press. As one might expect, the truth lies somewhere between these extremes.

Once goods have been manufactured they are put onto the market in one country by the manufacturer. Parallel trade occurs when the goods are subsequently transferred to a second country by another party (the parallel trader, who may be the end consumer). The distinguishing feature of parallel trade is that the manufacturer did not intend those particular goods to end up in the second country. The goods are normally described in that country as 'parallel imports' or 'grey market goods'. The latter term is generally used to suggest that the trade, while not exactly 'black market', is not entirely lawful either.

Understanding how European Community law operates to permit or restrict parallel trade involves exploring a complex matrix of rules from the fields of free movement, intellectual property, competition and regulatory law, including both private and public enforcement regimes. Where goods are parallel imported from outside the Community these rules change and new considerations come into play, such as obligations arising from the European Economic Area, the World Trade Organization and bilateral free trade agreements. The experience of Europe, which has grappled with the issues on a regional basis for more than four decades, provides a fertile source for examination of parallel trade in other jurisdictions.

Right: crates of cheap imported drinks at the docks, on their way to the book launch ...

Christopher Stothers' comprehensive treatment successfully analyses this difficult topic, considering both Community and national decisions".

Bibliographic details: published by Hart Publishing. Price: £95. 526 pages, hardback. ISBNs 1-84113-437-6 and 9781841134376. Rupture factor: small. Aesthetic appeal of cover design: boringly low (if you pay a lot for a book, it has to look grimly serious so there's no piccie on the cover: this helps make expensive books cheaper to produce than cheap books). Full details available on the internet here
Parallel Trade in Europe, fun in Gresham Street Parallel Trade in Europe, fun in Gresham Street Reviewed by Jeremy on Saturday, April 28, 2007 Rating: 5

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