Central Committee to discuss parallel importPOSTED: 05/22/12 11:25 AM
GREAT BAY – The Central Committee of parliament meets Wednesday afternoon at two o’clock in a closed door session with representatives of International Liquor and Tobacco N.V. The company is the representative of Diageo, the world’s leading premium drinks business with activities in 180 different markets and with a staff of 20,000. The subject matter of this meeting is, according to the department of communications, “decoded products.”
Diageo has been in and out of the courts in its battle against parallel imports in St. Maarten. In November of last year it lost an appeal against six Front Street retailers who sold Diageo brands like Johnny Walker, Baileys José Cuervo and Guinness in bottles from which identification codes had been removed.
The retailers bought the products in the parallel market for a price below the level Diageo charges in St. Maarten via its official agent International Liquors and Tobacco. The law suit was an attempt to protect the company’s market.
However, the government of the Netherlands Antilles decreed in 1997 that parallel import in St. Maarten is allowed and even desirable. An elucidation on article 23 of the national trademark ordinance shows that the Antilles opted for “a worldwide depletion to facilitate free parallel trade.”
Worldwide depletion means that the owner of a brand cannot object to the sale of his products in St. Maarten that the owner has brought to market elsewhere in the world. The Antillean choice for this option was inspired by the thought that small countries like the Antillean islands strongly depend on imported products. “National depletion (as opposed to worldwide depletion) would stand in the way of import from cheaper third countries, which would make products in the Antilles unnecessary expensive – not only for citizens but also for tourists.
The Appeals Court ruled in favor of the Front Street retailers and against Diageo last year. That International Liquors and Tobacco has sought an audience with the Central Committee indicates that the company is looking for ways to defy that court ruling.