31 March 2022CopyrightAlex Baldwin

Russia allows import of grey goods to ‘satisfy demand’

The Russian government has legalised the import of goods into the country without the permission of IP owners, according to an announcement yesterday.

In a meeting of the commission that discussed improving the stability of the Russian economy in light of sanctions, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced that the government was legalising “parallel imports” of foreign goods in light of the severe sanctions currently imposed by foreign governments and businesses.

Mishustin said: "The purpose of this mechanism is to satisfy the demand for goods containing the results of intellectual activity. Until now, they could not be sold on the territory of our country without the permission of the copyright holder.”

The country’s retail sector specifically has been gutted by western companies pulling out of the market in protest of its war on Ukraine. Among the biggest names to pull out of the country include McDonald's, Coca-Cola, IKEA, H&M and Apple.

According to the Russian news website RIA, the list of products that will be allowed for parallel import will be approved by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. It also assured that this would mean the legalisation of importing counterfeit goods, rather it will focus on acquiring genuine goods through “alternate channels”.

Draft regulation on parallel imports has already been prepared by the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, Reuters reports.

IP pariah

This is the latest in a slew of announcements and speculation about the status of IP protection in Russia in light of its war with Ukraine.

As well as government sanctions and high-profile businesses pulling out of the country, many IP offices have also severed ties with its Russian counterpart Rospatent.

The European Patent Office, the UK Intellectual Property Office, and the US Patent and Trademark Office have terminated their engagements with both Rospatent and the Eurasian Patent Office this month.

The International Trademark Association recently prepared a comprehensive list of all sanctions currently levied against Russia, including those from other major jurisdictions such as Japan and Switzerland.

In response, the Russian government announced earlier in March that it was considering suspending IP rights that protect goods and services, predominantly to allow access to technologies that were “deprived” from Russian citizens with the imposing of sanctions.

Writing for WIPR, Romanian IP lawyers Alina Popescu and Flavia Ștefura of MPR Partners, argued that Russia’s apparent abandonment of IP protections from “unfriendly countries” could cause an “exodus” of know-how for the country going forward.

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2 March 2022   The European Patent Office has confirmed that it will cease its cooperation with Russia and Belarusian patent offices after President Vladmir Putin’s forces launched a violent assault on Ukraine last week.
10 March 2022   Following Russia’s threat to suspend IP rights in the wake of sanctions imposed by the west, Agnieszka Sztoldman of the University of Wrocław in Poland explores the potential fallout.