Plantronics has defended its stance on dealing with resellers who sell non-EU Plantronics kit, claiming VARs can expect the same approach if it happens in the future.
The headset vendor has launched a crackdown on the issue and last week announced it had settled a case with Manchester reseller Incom after it sold non-EU products which had counterfeit packaging components. The firm has settled with or pursued a number of other firms about similar issues since Christmas.
In the most recent case, Incom claimed Plantronics had been "heavy-handed" and said it was especially angry because the first it heard of the issue was when it received legal papers.
Plantronics released a statement to CRN today countering the comments, insisting its actions were appropriate.
"Incom suggested our actions have been unfair and heavy-handed," the statement said. "On the contrary, Plantronics handled Incom as it would anyone else dealing in infringing products. The evidence of repeated wrongdoing presented by Plantronics was indisputable, a fact accepted by Incom. Any future infringers, including Incom should they infringe again, can expect the same approach by Plantronics."
Incom told CRN last week that it will no longer sell Plantronics products, which the vendor said in today's statement is "a commercial decision taken by Incom, and was not part of any agreement between Plantronics and Incom".
The statement added: "Plantronics' claims were entirely valid, justified and appropriate. Plantronics' actions support the legitimate activities of our distributors and resellers. The law is clear. Anyone found dealing in illegal products is legally liable, as Incom acknowledged through their settlement with Plantronics."
James Whymark, associate at legal firm Backer & McKenzie, said while importing goods can be tempting, checking their source is essential.
"The ability for resellers to utilise parallel-imported products remains a controversial one," he said. "Because of the potential disparity in the pricing of branded products across different jurisdictions, the sale of parallel-imported products can be very attractive.
"However, those using parallel imported products need to be careful. In accordance with the principles of free movement of goods, EU law has recognised that products put on the market by the brand owner (or with their consent) in one EEA [European Economic Area] member state can be resold in other EEA member states without triggering any claims of trademark infringement.
"That principle, however, does not extend to genuine branded products being imported from outside the EEA into an EEA country such as the UK."
He added that it is down to the reseller to ensure they are satisfied with the products' source before importing them.
"EU and UK law places the responsibility on knowing the source of imported products with the importer," he said.
"While this obligation may be seen as unfair – the argument being that it may be difficult for a parallel importer to easily determine where products were originally put on the market – it is regarded as the trade-off to the free movement of goods within the EEA.
"Ultimately, those importing products need to be confident as to the source of the products and the legitimacy of their suppliers or otherwise run the risk of being potentially liable to the brand owner."
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