Consumers of luxury brands are, more and more, opting to shop around online rather than go to the high street, in order to find the best bargains. But a word of caution when buying from retailers who hail from far afield, as customs officials are increasingly vigilant about exercising their powers to take action against goods suspected of infringing intellectual property rights.
Spare a thought for poor Mr Blomqvist, who splashed out online on a Rolex timepiece from the comfort of his Danish home. He purchased the watch through an English website of a retailer based in China. But upon arrival in Denmark the watch was seized by customs as a suspected counterfeit, which Rolex confirmed that it was, and demanded it be destroyed.
Mr Blomqvist was not happy. After all, he was not looking to sell-on the watch, just to keep it for himself. Let's assume he didn't know it was a counterfeit. He had forked out his hard-earned money for the piece, which he would struggle to get refunded from the Chinese retailer, and he wanted something to show for it.
Actually, the basis of his claim was a rather technical one, that there was no evidence that the website for the counterfeit goods was in any way targeting or offering the goods for sale in the EU specifically (the territory where Rolex has trade mark protection). He argued that the offer for sale took place outside of the jurisdiction of the European regulation and so was not caught by it.
Too bad for Mr Blomqvist, as the European Court said that did not matter. The fact that the infringing watch was in fact sold to a EU consumer was, unsurprisingly, enough to bring within the reach of the Regulation. So, it could be treated in just the same way any other counterfeit goods.
Best to buy direct from Rolex next time.
the customs regulation must be interpreted as meaning that the holder of an intellectual property right over goods sold to a person residing in the territory of a Member State through an online sales website in a non-member country enjoys the protection afforded to that holder by that regulation at the time when those goods enter the territory of that Member State merely by virtue of the acquisition of those goods. It is not necessary, in addition, for the goods at issue to have been the subject, prior to the sale, of an offer for sale or advertising targeting consumers of that State