IP in times of war

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In the last few weeks we have all been mesmerized and horrified by the events in Ukraine. Intellectual property is obviously not the main issue in this war, but the conflict has had serious implications for intellectual property.

go to law firms

A number of major international law firms left Russia as a direct result of the war. These include Gowling WLG, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright and Squire Patton Boggs.

IP owner go

IP-rich companies withdrew from Russia very quickly. Among them: Adidas, Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney, Heineken, Hermes, Ikea, Levi’s, L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Nike and Starbucks.

However, some companies such as Burger King and Marks and Spencer have found it difficult to exit due to complex franchise agreements with Russian companies. Some Russian companies have responded to the pullout by filing trademark applications registering logos that look very similar to the logos of those who left.

Intellectual property offices stop cooperating with Russia

The European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) severed ties with Russia over the war, while the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it was canceling its Global Patent Prosecution Highway agreement with Russia’s IP office Rospatent would quit. However, the Chinese Intellectual Property Office took a different approach and announced an extension of the Eurasian Patent Organization’s Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH).

Domain name development

The Ukrainian registrar responsible for .ua domain names moved its servers to the EU early on. It also asked ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to separate the Russian ccTLDs inclusive .ru and .su However, ICANN refused on the grounds that it was not authorized to do so.

IP rights are restricted, even nullified

There have been a number of developments and to be honest they’re quite confusing, but this is our understanding:

  • In Russia there is a document entitled “Priority Action Plan to Ensure the Development of the Russian Economy in Conditions of External Sanctions Pressure”.

The document sets out measures affecting the IP rights of those acting against Russia’s interests. This document speaks of “Waiver of liability for use in Russian Federation of unlicensed software owned by a copyright owner from countries that supported sanctions”. The document also proposes compulsory licensing mechanisms for computer programs and databases, giving the government “rights in inventions, utility models, industrial design related to computer programs, databases, integrated circuit topologies.”

  • There is a bill that will give the government the power to temporarily suspend protection of IP rights.
  • There is also a law that allows the Russian authorities to exempt certain goods from intellectual property protection, allowing for parallel imports and intellectual property infringement.

the Peppa Pig case

This has been in the news a lot. A company called Entertainment One (part of the Hasbro group) owns the trademark rights to a character called Peppa Pig. When Hasbro sued a Russian company for infringement of its trademark in a Russian court, the judge ruled against it, making it clear that “the unfriendly actions of the US and affiliated countries” had influenced his decision. The judge said: “Given the restrictive measures (sanctions) imposed on the Russian Federation and the status of the plaintiff (foreign company), the court regards the plaintiff’s actions as an abuse of rights, which constitutes a separate ground for refusal of the claim.”

Of course, claims for damages in Russia are not high – Hasbro would apparently have been awarded around £400 in damages if its claim had been successful. Although, as one report notes, given the dramatic devaluation of the ruble, the damages would actually have been worth no more than £230!

the Daily Mail wade in

As some readers will be aware, the Peppa Pig character is highly regarded in the UK. the Daily Mail had this to say about the case: “As the crisis surrounding Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine deepens, Russia has made the amazing decision to sanction beloved cartoon characters Peppa Pig and Daddy Pig.”

The newspaper went on to issue this solemn warning: “Judge Andrei Slavinsky’s verdict in a provincial arbitration court in Kirov could pave the way for mass abuse of Western trademarks and copyrights – allowing Russia to flout copyright laws by dismissing infringement claims.” Followed by: “The ruling could trigger more widespread trademark abuse, as was common in Russia in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.”

Let’s end with something easy – the words of Boris Johnson

the Daily Mail couldn’t let this matter go without reminding readers that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is a serious Peppa Pig fan. According to the newspaper, “Russians could have discerned Boris Johnson’s admiration for Peppa Pig after his bizarre speech to the Confederation of British Industry in November”. This was the speech in which the Prime Minister said: “Yesterday, as we all must, I went to Peppa Pig World… I loved it. Peppa Pig is right up my alley… who would have thought that a pig that looks like a hair dryer or possibly a Picasso-like hair dryer, a pig that was rejected by the BBC is now being exported to 180 countries.”

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