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Mitsubishi settles with 'grey' importers

Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation have settled their dispute with 11 UK businesses regarding the import of vehicles from outside the European Economic Area into the UK for sale.

The 11 companies were accused of putting 'grey' vehicles onto the market without the consent of the trade mark owner, Mitsubishi Corporation or its licensee, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.

The 11 defendants have now signed a legally binding agreement to cease all dealings in the Euroopean market of any Mitsubishi vehicles which infringe Mitsubishi's trade mark rights.

Mitsubishi has allowed one exception as part of the agreement which permits the defendants to continue to import or deal in Mitsubishi vehicles imported from outside the EEA which are more than three years old from the date of first registration.

The relevant trade mark law used in this case does not distinguish between new and used goods. However, Mitsubishi has decided to enforce its rights only in respect of non-EEA vehicles which are less than three years old allowing the defendants to trade in older non-EEA vehicles without facing enforcement action.

‘Since litigation began we have been working hard to understand how these individual businesses operate and we have investigated market statistics for the import of vehicles other than by ourselves,’ said Jim Tyrrell, managing director of the Colt Car Company Limited, the official UK Mitsubishi distributor.

‘We concluded that the market for non-EEA vehicles over three years old does not have a negative effect on our operation or that of our dealer network.’

75% of all second hand Mitsubishi vehicles imported into the UK from outside the EEA are at least 10 years old, 20% are between 5 and 10 years old and only 5% are less than 5 years old.

Tyrrell added: ‘The importation of new and nearly-new Mitsubishi vehicles from outside the EEA into the UK needs to stop as there are a number of issues which are damaging the Mitsubishi brand and causing customer dissatisfaction, the most significant of which is the fact that these vehicles do not have a manufacturer's warranty. Once a non-EEA vehicle is over three years old there can be no confusion for the customer in terms of warranty expectations.’

The settlement, which will now be endorsed by the High Court, concludes the litigation proceedings between Mitsubishi and 11 of the 15 defendants. Two defendants have ceased trading since the proceedings began and two others have declined to be a party to the settlement agreement.

This latest lawsuit follows on from the successful action taken by Mitsubishi against PFK Trading Company Limited in July 2005. PFK settled out of court and agreed to cease trading in non-EEA Mitsubishi vehicles and also to pay an undisclosed sum as a contribution to Mitsubishi’s costs and damages.

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