The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has decided that Canon, a manufacturer of cameras, can prevent a Bulgarian trader from importing ink cartridges from Hong Kong into the EU if it can show that these cartridges were intended to be placed on the market within the EEA. IPN Bulgaria had argued that the imported cartridges from Hong Kong were destined for Serbia and not Bulgaria, where they first entered the EU and that Bulgaria was only a temporary stop before the cartridges arrived at the end destination.

A Bulgarian court had made a referral to the ECJ asking whether Canon could block the import of cartridges from Hong Kong, on the basis that the imports would breach its exclusivity rights within the EU. The ECJ responded that it is up to the national authorities to establish whether or not the importer “is about to place the products on the market within the EEA [...] or offer or sell its products to another operator, which will necessarily place them on the market in the EEA”. If this is the case, it would be equivalent to a first placement of authentic products on the market in the EEA without the mark owner’s consent which can, accordingly, be blocked.

C-449/09 - 10 November 2010