Davide Campari-Milano N.V., the Dutch branch of Italian alcoholic drinks maker Gruppo Campari, has taken legal action against a Russian importer to prevent the alleged illegal sale of its Aperol liquor in Russia, according to a report by Kommersant news outlet. Court documents revealed that Campari accused Rostov-based distributor Master-Trade of selling Aperol in Russia without the producer’s consent. While local regulations allow for parallel imports, which are imports made without the brand owner’s permission, Campari argued that Aperol was not included in the list of products authorized for this type of import.
In response, Campari requested that all Aperol sales by Master-Trade be halted. However, the court has asked Campari to provide evidence of its rights being violated before making a determination. A court hearing on the case has been scheduled for October 30.
Experts consulted by Kommersant explained that if a brand is included in the Russian Customs Register of Intellectual Property Objects (TROIS) but is not authorized for parallel imports, the Federal Customs Service can still allow its import by a third-party distributor unless the brand owner explicitly forbids it.
The legal battle between Campari and Master-Trade comes amid Campari’s decision to cease all investments in Russia and reduce its business activities to the bare minimum, under pressure from Western sanctions related to the conflict in Ukraine. However, the company has not indicated any plans to exit the Russian market and continues to operate there.
Market data compiled by Kommersant shows that Campari’s imports to Russia have remained relatively stable this year. Between January and July 2023, the company imported 3.12 million liters of alcohol to the country, compared to 3.58 million liters during the same period the previous year.
In a significant development, analysts suggest that if Master-Trade can prove that Campari unlawfully reduced its business operations in Russia due to sanctions, it could set a precedent for other distributors to import goods without the brand owner’s authorization, potentially bypassing the framework of parallel imports.
Additionally, Campari is also involved in another legal dispute in Russia’s Intellectual Property Rights Court. The company has filed a lawsuit against Vkusnaya Zhizn, which produces syrups and toppings under the Barline brand. Campari is seeking the court’s recognition of its rights to the Barline Aperol combined trademark, alleging unfair competition by Vkusnaya Zhizn.
This ongoing legal battle highlights the challenges faced by international companies operating in Russia’s complex market and the importance of protecting intellectual property rights. Campari’s actions demonstrate its commitment to safeguarding its brand and market share in Russia.
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