Italian drinks giant sues to maintain position in Russian market
Davide Campari-Milano N.V., a Dutch branch of Italian alcoholic drinks maker Gruppo Campari, has filed a lawsuit against a Russian importer to prohibit the allegedly unlawful sale of its Aperol liquor in the country, Kommersant news outlet reported on Thursday.
According to court documents seen by the media, Campari complained that a Rostov-based distributor, Master-Trade, has been selling Aperol in Russia without the producer’s consent. While the liquor could be distributed under local regulations that allow parallel imports, or imports made without the brand owner’s permission, Campari argued that Aperol was not listed among products authorized for this type of import.
The company requested that Master-Trade stops all Aperol sales, but the court has asked Campari to prove that its rights were violated first. A court hearing on the case is scheduled for October 30.
Experts told Kommersant 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 may still allow its import by a third-party distributor unless the brand owner specifically forbids it.
In April 2022, Campari said it would stop all investments in Russia and “reduced the business to the bare minimum,” pressured to do so by Ukraine-related Western sanctions on Russia. However, the company never indicated that it planned to leave the Russian market and continues to operate in the country.
According to market data compiled by Kommersant, Campari’s imports to Russia remained largely unchanged this year – the company imported 3.12 million liters of alcohol to the country between January and July 2023, compared to 3.58 million liters in the same period a year earlier.
Analysts say, however, if Master-Trade can prove that Campari has unlawfully reduced its business operations in Russia due to sanctions, it may create a precedent for other distributors to import goods without a brand owner’s authorization outside the parallel imports framework.
Campari is facing another court hearing in Russia’s Intellectual Property Rights Court next week for a lawsuit it filed against the company Vkusnaya Zhizn, which produces syrups and toppings under the Barline brand. Campari is asking the court to recognize the company’s acquisition of rights to the Barline Aperol combined trademark as an act of unfair competition.
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