Peppa Pig, McDonald’s and Starbucks’ IP in Russia

As part of the economic pressure on Russia many private companies – such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, IKEA, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Porsche and Toyota – have left or downsized their operations in Russia. In retaliation, Russia is threatening the intellectual property rights of businesses associated with sanctioning countries, which they call “unfriendly” countries. On March 6th 2022, the Kremlin issued a decree that grants a no-cost license to steal patents held by owners in “unfriendly” countries, including the US and UK. This decree only mentions patents, but Russian courts have begun using it to undermine copyright and trademark rights.
The British children’s television character Peppa Pig is a target of Russia’s attack on IP rights. Peppa Pig is produced by Entertainment One, in the UK. Last January, Entertainment One sued Ivan Kozhevnikov, a Russian national, for 40,000 rubles ($550). The suit accused Kozhevnikov of infringing the Peppa Pig trademark and other intellectual property. On March 2, 2022, Judge Andrei Slavinsky threw out the case, citing American and British sanctions against Russia as justification for refusing to recognize Entertainment One’s intellectual property rights.
Less than two weeks after that order, people have begun putting in trademark applications that copy famous American brands in Russia, including Starbucks and McDonalds. One trademark application recently filed includes a copy of the McDonald’s golden arches logo with “Uncle Vanya” written below it. Trademark applications have also been listed for “Starducks”, “Makdonalds” and “Makdak” – all three from the same applicant.
Part of the US sanctions against Russia mean that American companies are prohibited from applying for patent or trademark protection in Russia after June 23, 2022. After June 23, these companies may have to abandon their Russian intellectual property registrations. Even if these registrations could continue, there is doubt that they would receive any meaningful IP protection in Russia. For example, there have been reports of Russian officials cancelling raids that would have targeted counterfeit merchandise.

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