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Permissibility of parallel imports under IP laws clarified

17th May, 2012

The Central Board of Excise & Customs has, in a recent Customs Circular, clarified the scope of various intellectual property laws in case of parallel imports.

The circular deals with cases of import of original/genuine products, sold or acquired legally abroad and imported into the country, by persons other than the intellectual property right holder. Such imports when made without permission or authorisation of the IPR holder are known as ‘parallel imports’.

The clarification cites the opinion of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to say that parallel imports are provided for under Section 107A(b) of the Patents Act, 1970 while sale or dealing with lawfully acquired goods bearing a registered trade mark does not amount to infringement as per Trade Marks Act, 1999, if such goods are not materially altered or impaired after they are put in the market.

The Circular No. 13/2012-Cus., dated 8-5-2012 also states that such imports are not allowed under Designs Act, 2000. In case of geographical indications, the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 does not cover parallel imports. Clarification is stated as awaited from department concerned in case of copyright. 

Prohibition of imported goods under the relevant Customs provisions for the purpose of protecting intellectual property rights, according to the circular, does not relate to all infringements under the parent Acts like Trade Marks Act or Patents Act. 
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