Famous Brands Could Face Trademark Infringement in Russia

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Russia’s trademark office is seeing a spike in applications for famous Western brands since the Russian government issued a decree early last month, permitting the use of patents from “unfriendly countries” without pay or consent from the owner.

Opportunistic Russians, emboldened by the decree, have so far submitted more than 50 trademark applications for names and logos of well-known brands including Starbucks, Nespresso, McDonald’s, Mercedes-Benz, Chanel, and Christian Dior.

This comes after hundreds of multinational companies announced they will pull out of Russia, closing stores, or suspending operations in response to the war in Ukraine.

It’s unclear if Russia’s trademark authority will grant these applications for registration. Some trademark and patent attorneys have raised concerns when a Russian court in Kirov determined that anybody can use the trademarks for Peppa Pig and Daddy Pig, British cartoon characters.

The court ruling cited “unfriendly actions of the United States of America and affiliated foreign countries” as part of the decision.

These actions increase the likelihood of patent infringement in Russia, according to Josh Gerben, a trademark lawyer in Washington.

“The Peppa Pig decision turned a lot of heads because it gave a signal that the courts have probably been ordered to start to allow the piracy of, and the infringement of, intellectual property owned by Western companies,” he wrote in a blog.

According to trademark attorneys, it takes months in Russia to process these applications, although the situation may have changed after the war.

“Prior to the Ukraine war, it was common to see the Russian trademark office refuse trademarks that were too close to other brands, even those of Western companies,” Gerben wrote.

The United States, the UK, European Union members, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan are among Russia’s list of “unfriendly” countries.

In response to media reports, the Russian Patent Office (Rospatent) issued a statement on April 1 about recent trademark applications for Western logos and names.

Rospatent stated that these applications will be subjected to thorough examination before being approved and registered in Russia.

Applications for trademark registration does not automatically provide legal protection under Russian law, the statement read.

The statement also clarified the recent application for the “Uncle Vanya” trademark. Last month, a trademark application was filed for the McDonald’s logo, using the name “Uncle Vanya.” However, the application was withdrawn by the applicant 2 weeks after the filing, Rospatent stated.

Victor Lisovenko, a Russian patent attorney, noted on LinkedIn that the statement by Rospatent indicates that, despite the apparent concerns, the trademark and patent prosecution process will continue to be “based on the same principles and regulations” as before.

In reaction to the war in Ukraine, McDonald’s announced on March 8 that it would temporarily close all its 850 locations in Russia. Similarly, coffee giant Starbucks said it would withdraw from the country. As of April 5, more than 600 companies have withdrawn from Russia, according to data collected by Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.

Maksym Popov, an associate partner at Mentors Law Firm in Ukraine, who tracks the trademark applications by copycats on the Russian government website, found that most applications belong to two entities—the cosmetics company Smart Beauty and the pharmaceutical company Biotekfarm-M. Both firms together filed 37 applications for Western brands and logos.

“In regular times, I could agree with the argument that these are applications from trolls that can be filed in every country. But these are not regular times,” Popov told The Epoch Times.

“The Russian authorities are violating international agreements and are already canceling compensation for patents for owners from unfriendly countries. Russian politicians are calling for the nationalization of Western companies’ assets, and we already know that Russia has stolen 400 leased aircraft,” Popov said.

As a result, it’s possible that Russia may steal Western corporations’ intellectual property, such as trademarks and patents, he added.

According to trademark attorneys, if the Russian government chooses to infringe intellectual property rights in reaction to Western sanctions, it might have long-term consequences for investments in the country.

Emel Akan

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Emel Akan is White House economic policy reporter in Washington, D.C. Previously she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan and as a consultant at PwC. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.



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