HARMAN fights IP rights infringements in Europe

HARMAN, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., specialized in connected technologies for automotive, consumer and enterprise markets, has recently intensified its efforts against piracy and other forms of IP rights infringements, with special focus on actions in Poland, where the new strategy regarding actions taken to minimalize the parallel import of Harman goods started to show promising results.

Both criminal and civil law actions have been among top priorities of HARMAN, aiming especially at eliminating counterfeited products and parallel import from markets outside Europe. In Poland and other CEE markets trademark infringements are among the most significant problems related to company’s IP assets. This issue is particularly evident with a wide range of counterfeited and illegally imported JBL products on sale in Poland in recent months, contributing to the overall gravity of the infringements.

In reaction to these events the company has implemented a new IP protection strategy, which entails intensifying legal efforts on parallel import issues in Poland using both civil and penal law measures. Thanks to the cooperation with an IP-specialized, Warsaw-based law firm Patpol Legal, operating in whole Europe, a number of criminal investigations have been opened and several civil cases have been filed during the last 12 months.

The message that HARMAN is sending is clear: it’s not only illegal to sell counterfeited copies of company’s products, but also to engage in parallel import. The latter seems even more important, as there is still little awareness among distributors and consumers as to conditions for lawful introduction of goods originating on one market to another market.

“The key to understanding the difference between a legal import and illegal parallel import is the notion known as exhaustion of trademark rights. Usually, if a product is introduced to the market by its producer or with their permission, trademark rights with respect to this particular product are exhausted. This allows to further trade with such product, but only on that particular market. Parallel import is in essence bringing to one market original products from another market, without the trademark owner’s consent, and is considered a trademark rights’ infringement.” – said Dariusz Piróg, advocate and managing partner at Patpol Legal.

Among most notable actions taken by HARMAN against parallel import in Poland are at least two cases brought before the Warsaw civil court, one against a major online retailer and another against a large distributor. In both instances the court has granted a preliminary injunction preventing defendants from selling parallel imported JBL products, effectively stopping some of the important channels of illegal sales.

Helen from Harman commented: “We are happy that these first victories are already shaping the approach of the market towards intellectual property and raise awareness of the importance of using only legitimate sources when it comes to JBL products. We hope that courts will confirm this initial success in final rulings”.

First of the lawsuits is expected to end with a judgment in July, so it will soon become clear how the case is resolved. This decision will likely have a serious impact on the behavior of many retailers and distributors in Poland, not just of JBL products.

The scale of distribution of counterfeited products in Poland is huge, has caused EUR 2,732 million loss in direct sales and is believed to have caused loss of over 31,500 jobs in all sectors in 2019

 

About HARMAN

HARMAN designs and engineers connected products and solutions for automakers, consumers, and enterprises worldwide, including connected car systems, audio and visual products, enterprise automation solutions; and services supporting the Internet of Things. With leading brands including AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon®, Mark Levinson® and Revel®, HARMAN is admired by audiophiles, musicians and the entertainment venues where they perform around the world. More than 50 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and connected car systems. Our software services power billions of mobile devices and systems that are connected, integrated and secure across all platforms, from work and home to car and mobile. HARMAN has a workforce of approximately 30,000 people across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In March 2017, HARMAN became a wholly – owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

[1] https://euipo.europa.eu/tunnel-web/secure/webdav/guest/document_library/observatory/img/new_map/PL/images/infringement_en.png

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