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International exhaustion of trade marks and parallel imports in the US and the EU: how to achieve symmetry?

Andrea Zappalaglio

Keywords: trade mark exhaustion; parallel imports; EU trade mark law; US trade mark law; Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; TRIPs Agreement; grey goods

The differences in the management of the exhaustion of trade mark rights and, consequently, of parallel importations in the US and the EU cause some asymmetries in the international trade between these two subjects, especially concerning the exchange of grey goods. The article conducts a critical analysis of the origins of this problem and suggests that, given that a general reform of the EU policy is highly unlikely, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could be the right instrument for establishing a bilateral sui generis system of parallel importations between the US and the EU. In this system, Europe should apply some American concepts such as the common control doctrine, thus making its internal market more open and competitive.

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