Martijn van de Hel, Wouter Jans, Arjen Paardekoper and Thomas Kriense (Blenheim Advocaten) have successfully represented International Bon Ton Toys (IBTT) in preliminary relief proceedings challenging anticompetitive provisions in a licensing agreement of Dromenjager. IBTT is a designer and producer of soft toys. Dromenjager is the trademark owner of Woezel & Pip. IBTT and Dromenjager entered into a licensing agreement in 2017 that allowed IBTT to produce Woezel & Pip soft toys. However, the licensing agreement also contained restrictions regarding the pricing and sales channels of the toys. IBTT was not allowed to sell a batch of soft toys to Kruidvat, for instance.
In its judgment of 8 October 2020 in the preliminary relief proceedings, the court found that the challenged licensing conditions were in breach of (European) competition law. In the court’s opinion, the challenged licensing conditions gave rise to territorial restrictions and minimum resale prices, and therefore constituted hardcore restrictions within the meaning of Article 4 of the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation. If a restriction constitutes a hardcore restriction, it is in breach of competition law in the court’s opinion, regardless of the parties’ positions on the market and regardless of the possible impact of the restriction. The court noted that the licensing agreement did not provide for a selective or exclusive distribution system that would have allowed Dromenjager to protect its trademark or marketing strategy. The challenged licensing conditions were therefore considered null and void and the sale of soft toys to Kruidvat was permitted.