Detailed guide: Exhaustion of IP rights and parallel trade after the transition period

Government Digital Service

January 30
14:24 2020

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.

After 1 January 2021, there will be some changes to the exhaustion of IP rights system.

Parallel exports from the UK to the EEA

Goods placed on the UK market by, or with the consent of, the right holder after the transition period 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 holders consent.

Actions for parallel exporters of IP-protected goods to the EEA

  1. Check whether you currently export IP-protected goods to the EEA (for example, goods branded with a trade mark) that have already been placed on the UK market and where the rightsholders permission to export those goods is not currently required.

  2. You may need to contact the rights holder to get permission to continue after 1 January 2021. The IP rights holder may not provide permission for their IP-protected goods to be parallel exported to the EEA.

  3. 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 after 1 January 2021.

Published 30 January 2020

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