Serbian Supreme Court Issues Important Decision on Parallel Imports
On July 12, 2018, the Serbian Supreme Court of Cassation issued a decision confirming that parallel imports constitute trademark infringement, revoking the first and second instance decisions of the Commercial Court and the Commercial Appellate Court. This ruling is significant because even though parallel imports have been prohibited since amendments to the Serbian trademark law entered into force in 2013, court decisions against parallel importers have been very rare and inconclusive.
PETOŠEVIĆ Serbia represented the rights holder, a well-known Swiss fashion label, in court proceedings against a Serbian company that was distributing apparel items bearing the plaintiff’s trademarks without the plaintiff’s consent. First, the request for securing evidence was filed with the Commercial Court in Belgrade, and after securing evidence, an attempt was made to settle the matter out of court. The defendant refused to comply with the plaintiff’s demands and a lawsuit was filed with the Commercial Court. The court held that the evidence provided was inconclusive and ruled in favor of the defendant on January 28, 2016. The Commercial Appellate Court confirmed the first instance decision on October 10, 2017. However, the Supreme Court eventually overturned lower court decisions ruling that the evidence was sufficient to prove parallel import.
While lower courts in Serbia are not obligated to follow the opinions and decisions of higher courts, in practice they rarely rule contrary to higher courts stance. To our knowledge, this is the first time that a parallel import case reached the Supreme Court of Cassation and the ruling is significant because it will allow rights holders to invoke it in their struggle against this type of trademark infringement.
By: Branislav Krnetić
For more information, please contact Branislav Krnetić at our Serbia office.