When is a brand not a brand?

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At the moment the answer is when it is used in Russia.

Since 2003 Peppa Pig, the popular children’s cartoon character, has been registered as a trademark in the UK. The owner, Entertainment One, applied to extend the registration to Russia in 2013, and although it wasn’t entirely straightforward, they were granted a trademark registration in December 2015.

In accordance with established international trademark law, no one else would be allowed to use the Peppa Pig trademark, or anything similar, in Russia without Entertainment One’s permission. At least that was the theory.

So when a Russian entrepreneur launched his own version of Peppa Pig, Entertainment One was reportedly confident of securing a court order in his favor. For the professionals of the brand, it was clearly a slam-dunk.

Except things are very different in Russia these days, and the court ruled that trademarks owned by countries that supported the “hostile actions of the United States of America and foreign affiliated countries” would no longer be enforceable in Russia. And that includes the UK, as well as all EU member states. The Russian court also extended the same principle to patents and other intellectual property rights.

Applying the same logic, Russian companies can now manufacture iPhones without Apple’s permission, and as long as they are only sold in Russia, there will be no infringement of Apple’s intellectual property rights. American company, and Russians can now build and open their own McDonald’s restaurants and there’s nothing the $21 billion company can do. It’s no wonder most big brands are pulling out of Russia as fast as they can – it’s become, almost overnight, a lawless wasteland when it comes to intellectual property.

We act for a number of clients who have trademarks registered in Russia but, on the grounds that the Russian legal system will no longer enforce them if they are owned by UK, US or EU companies, or companies of one of the other country against which Russia sought to retaliate, these recordings no longer have any meaning today.

At a time when protecting the value of your marks through trademark registration has never been more important, an unforeseen (and, admittedly, rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things) side effect of horrific events taking place in Ukraine is the tearing up of intellectual property settlement by Russian courts.

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