Dutch marketplace Bol.com escapes discovery procedure initiated by Chanel for “unauthorized” sales

What does it take to maintain the exclusivity and luxury-centric appeal – and therefore, the pricing power – embodied by one of the fashion’s most coveted brands in the digital age? A handful of ongoing legal issues initiated by Chanel provide insight. Amid battles with resale sites in the US and UK as well, Chanel also took on Bol.com, accusing the e-commerce market of offering Chanel-branded products without the luxury brand’s permission. . In general discovery proceedings in a Dutch court, Chanel requested information on products bearing the double C logo that were offered on Bol.com, the largest online retailer and marketplace in the Netherlands, in order to determine in to what extent its trademark rights are violated.

In its quest to obtain evidence of the sale of Chanel-branded products on Bol, which is not part of Chanel’s carefully organized selective distribution system, and the nature – and origin – of the products at issue, Chanel has launched a general investigation proceedings in the district court of Midden-Nederland, arguing that since 2015, Bol.com has violated its trademark rights by making Chanel-branded products – namely cosmetics and perfumes – available for sale on its marketplace without having received authorization from Chanel to do so.

Specifically, Chanel’s lawyer claimed that Bol.com broke the law on three different grounds. Mainly, Chanel argued that Bol.com sold inauthentic products and / or “traded Chanel products that Chanel had not placed in the European domestic market”, or that Chanel consented to be sold in the Union European. The court was not convinced by this argument, according to AKD lawyer Bram Woltering, which notes that the court ruled that “Chanel was unable to provide proof that the Chanel products sold by Bol.com were counterfeit or [were] unauthorized parallel imports‘, ie products manufactured for one market and then imported / sold in another without the approval of the trademark owner.

The court further found that “certain test purchases made by Chanel were for products with a tracking and tracing code”, which found that the products were, in fact, genuine and authorized for sale in the European Union. .

Second, Chanel alleged that Bol.com purchased at least some of the Chanel products from authorized Chanel distributors. While these sales might traditionally be out of Chanel’s control due to the first sale doctrine / the principle of commercial exhaustion, Chanel argued that it was still entitled to control the sales of the goods because that its authorized distributors were formally prohibited from selling its products to third-party resellers due to the terms of their distribution agreements with Chanel.

Once again, the court sided with Bol.com, stating that even if it purchased Chanel-branded products from authorized distributors who violated their agreements with Chanel, such violation does not prevent burnout. trademark rights.

Finally, Chanel took issue with the way its branded products were sold on Bol.com, claiming that such sales damaged the prestigious and luxurious image of its brand and that it could therefore continue to invoke its trademark rights. In concluding for Bol.com, the court ruled that “regardless of whether Bol.com sales damaged Chanel’s image, Chanel had no legitimate interest in the documents she requested ( namely, purchase contracts, product orders,, delivery confirmations, purchase invoices, sales invoices and correspondence with and suppliers’ representations and warranties regarding delivery and origin), ”writes Woltering. Beyond that, the court further stated that “the requested documents could not be used to determine the manner in which Bol.com had offered and presented the Chanel products for sale or whether these sales had damaged the reputation of the Chanel brands “.

By rejecting each of Chanel’s arguments, the court dismissed the discovery process in its entirety. However, Woltering says he expects this case not to be over yet, ”as Chanel will undoubtedly begin due process against Bol.com in the near future.

The case is Chanel SAS v Bol.com BV, district court Midden-Nederland (ECLI: NL: RBMNE: 2021: 1068).

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