, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 196-204

Gray marketing and unfair competition

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With the European Court of Justice's (ECJ) relaxation of the definitions of cartels, price controls, and market manipulation in July 1998, the Court effectively banned the import of gray goods into the EU. This judgment, restricting parallel importation, raises arguments amongst trademark owners, gray marketers, and consumers. First of all, has the ECJ's judgment connived a situation of unfair competition? Secondly, can the import of gray market goods with genuine trademarks be considered a trademark infringement? Thirdly, is a gray marketer a free rider? To provide the answers to these questions, there is need to investigate the relationships of parallel importation, trademarks and market competition. In this study, the author uses a price dominant model to determine the positions of the trademark owner and the gray marketer. This study finds that parallel importation does not contravene trademark law. In the spirit of free competition, gray marketing activities can develop a situation of fair competition in which social welfare increases. Given the existence of heterogeneous preference of consumers, authorized distributors should offer better levels of service to gain market share. Therefore, the author strongly supports a parallel importation policy.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Fifty-First International Atlantic Economic Conference, March 13–20, 2001, Athens, Greece. The author would like to thank the conference participants and an anonymous referee for very useful comments and suggestions. All remaining errors are the author's.