The relevant legislative framework was set in 2013 and the doctrine of national exhaustion of rights was enacted. This means that a trademark entitles its holder to prohibit its use on the goods which were not placed on the Serbian market by the holder of the trademark or other person authorized by the holder.
However, enforcement officials were initially reluctant to apply this provision due to controversy surrounding the grey market products issue until a judgment was passed in one of the pioneering cases in this sphere which started back in 2013. The case was initiated by a famous producer of alcoholic drinks banning the import of genuine bottles by parallel routes. After several years of proceedings, the Commercial Court in Belgrade passed the first instance judgment in April 2015 which has, in the meantime, become final.
Not only did this issue impede exclusive distributors, having enough on their plate already, but also foreign right holders were under a lot of pressure from their local distributors, as the advertising activity of the exclusive distributors was used as a free ride by parallel importers. Hence, the Commercial Court considered the issue to be ripe for decision.
The judgment which is the main topic of this article finally provided a way out of this vicious circle. It remains to be seen whether such judgment will improve legal certainty in Serbia or it actually opened Pandora’s box.