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court of Appeal sheds Sun-light on M-Tech's Euro-defences

27 August 2010

Oracle (formally Sun Microsystems) brought infringement proceedings against M-Tech for importing disk drives (bearing the SUN trade marks) without its consent into the European Economic Area (EEA) that had been first marketed outside the EEA. Under European trade mark law, putting goods on the market in the EEA without the trade mark owner’s consent amounts to trade mark infringement.

Oracle deliberately does not publish information about whether its goods have first been sold in the EEA, making it virtually impossible for re-sellers to know where the goods were first marketed. This acts as a deterrent to the importation of Oracle hardware generally, regardless of place of first marketing.

M-Tech said Oracle’s policy was contrary to European competition law but the High Court granted summary judgment in Oracle’s favour. The decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal who decided that M-Tech had a real prospect of success with its so called “Euro-defences”.

M-Tech still needs to establish those arguments in order to win its case and we could be waiting some time for an answer, given that a reference to the Court of Justice of the European Communities looks likely.

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