According to Russian law, a trademark is defined as “a sign capable of individualizing the goods/services of legal entities or individual entrepreneurs.” (Art. 1477 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation).
It is important to note that Russian law does not allow trademark registrations in the name of natural persons unless they are registered as individual entrepreneurs. Therefore, if a foreign physical person files a trademark application, they should double check whether they may be considered an individual entrepreneur according to their country’s local law. Individual entrepreneurship is a type of enterprise that is owned and run by a single person and in which there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business entity. Russian law, however, does not require any evidence that a trademark applicant is an individual entrepreneur at the stage of registering the trademark.
Unregistered trademarks do not enjoy legal protection in Russia
Russia is a "first to register" country. Under Russian trademark law, trademark rights are not acquired by actually using the designation in respect of the sale of goods or the advertising or performance of services; they are granted to the first person to file a trademark application. With the exception of a very narrow group of famous brands, the actual use of a brand in Russia does not give the brand owner any legal rights. Registration of a trademark outside Russia does not give the owner any rights either.
Registration of trademarks is not mandatory in Russia. However, the only protection afforded to non-registered brands in Russia may be found in unfair competition law based on Article 10-bis of the Paris Convention. In practice, protection of unregistered brands in Russia on the basis of this law is expensive and unpredictable. Accordingly, we do not recommend our clients to rely on unfair competition law to ensure brand protection. The simplest and the most straightforward way to protect your brand is to file a trademark application with the national trademark registrar – Rospatent.
Signs that can be registered as trademarks in Russia
Word, figurative, three-dimensional, and other signs or combinations thereof can be registered as trademarks.
A trademark may be registered in any color or color combination.
It is possible to register sounds, colors, holograms, olfactory marks, and some other types of non-traditional trademarks as long as they meet the distinctiveness requirement (capability of distinguishing your goods and services from those of others in the market).
Eurasian Customs Union
It is worth noting that Russia is a member of the Eurasian Customs Union (EACU). Apart from Russia, the Union‘s members as of today are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. The EACU represents a single customs territory without customs control between any of the member states, so the goods can freely circulate among the countries. This situation has created new challenges for trademark holders in the member states. To ensure efficient trademark protection on the Union’s territory and to avoid possible pitfalls, it may be advantageous to register your trademark in all the member states. We are ready to help with professional advice in any particular case.
Our trademark attorneys will assist you in registering your trademark (service mark) in Russia and in the former USSR countries, namely in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, under the Madrid System (international application) or in accordance with the national procedure.
Is sending a warning letter obligatory for initiating a non-use cancellation action against a Russian trademark?
Russian legislation provides for an obligatory pre-trial procedure in trademark non-use cancellation actions. In order to meet the requirements of the said obligatory pre-trial procedure the party which is interested in the trademark cancelation should send the Interested Person's Offer to the trademark owner. The Interested Person's Offer should contain an offer addressed to the trademark owner either to waive the rights for the trademark or to assign the trademark to the party that sent the offer (interested person).
The trademark cancellation lawsuit may be filed during 30 days upon expiration of two months from the date of forwarding the Interested Person's Offer.
What kind of documents evidencing use of the trademark can the trademark owner present to the court?
Current legislation provides that a trademark can be terminated based on a non-use cancellation action filed by an interested party with the Intellectual Property Court in case the mark is not in use for a continuous period of 3 years.
In order to maintain legal protection of its trademark the owner should provide the court with proper evidence of use.
The following can be submitted as proof of use:
Can importers bring to Russia products made in foreign countries and marked with that product manufacturer’s trademark registered in Russia, without consent of the manufacturer for the import?
Importation of goods bearing a trademark protected in Russia into the territory of the Russian Federation without the consent of the trademark owner constitutes a breach of the Russian legislation currently in force.
For more information on parallel importation, please refer to the Legislation News section.
Is forum shopping available in patent/trademark litigation in Russia?
For most disputes related to patent invalidation/trademark cancellation, the venue is determined directly by Russian law. It is either the Federal executive authority in the sphere of intellectual property (Rospatent, the Chamber for Patent Disputes) or the Court for Intellectual Property Rights.
At the same time, in infringement lawsuits, forum shopping is possible when the claimant can name multiple persons as co-defendants (e.g., manufacturer/importer, wholesalers, and retailers). In such cases, the claimant has the option to choose with which territorial court to file their action.
If my Russian trademark is illegally used in a domain name, do I have recourse to UDRP procedures in order to transfer the disputed domain name without litigation?
If the domain name is registered in one of the following generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs): .com, .info, .net, .org, .biz, .name, .pro, .aero, .asia, .cat, .coop, .jobs, .mobi, .museum, .tel, .travel or in a new gTLD, your dispute may be resolved out of court on the base of the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).
However, UDRP or similar dispute resolution proceedings are not currently available for .ru domains. In such cases, there are no options apart from litigation in court if the administrator does not concede to the trademark holder’s demand.