Since the invasion of Ukraine, several foreign trademark holders have found themselves in a tight spot in Russia. However, recent practice from Russia now indicates a softening in the approach against foreign rights holders, including in the trademark field.

In March 2022, shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we reported in the news story "International trademarks get stuck in Russia" that foreign companies with trademarks in Russia may encounter difficulties enforcing their trademark rights in Russia. Among other things, a Russian court has refused to enforce the trademarks- and copyrights to Peppa Pig specifically referring to the fact that the English rights holder was from an "unfriendly state".

The decision regarding Peppa Pig was subsequently appealed and has now been overturned by the court of appeal, which explicitly states that foreign rights holders are entitled to the same protection of IP rights as Russian companies. The practice by the court of appeal has subsequently been confirmed in several decisions, including in a case concerning the trademark rights of a US rights holder in the L.O.L. SURPRISE! trademark. The decision specifically refers to the fact that all countries covered by the Berne Convention and the Madrid Protocol are entitled to the same protection in Russia, regardless of the nationality of the right holder.

Exclusion of "unfriendly states"
Based on recent practice, it thus appears that the decision regarding Peppa Pig has not at this stage had the effect of generally excluding foreign companies from "unfriendly states" from enforcing their trademark rights before the Russian courts. And based on the decisions we are aware of from the Russian trademark authorities, the trend seems to be the same with regard decisions from the Russian trademark authorities.

However, we have yet to see how Russian trademark authorities and courts will deal with applications and oppositions where Russian applicants try to steal well-known trademarks from companies that have withdrawn from Russia, due to the invasion of Ukraine. Furthermore, we continue to await the final adoption of a Russian bill tabled in early March, which allows the takeover of foreign companies' IP rights and their transfer to Russian companies.

At Bech-Bruun, we continue to follow the development closely so that we can keep our clients updated. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.