This is a second blog post on patent enforcement in Eastern countries. Having already discussed China, we now turn to Russia.
Like China, Russia (pop. 142 million, GDP $1.676 trillion) has made great efforts to turn its IP law system into a market-oriented one, the latest amendment dating from 2008. Russia is a party to the Eurasian Patent Convention, through which patents can be granted in nine former Soviet republics.
At least on paper, the legislation should now qualify the country for WTO membership as regards the TRIPs criteria. The Russian government is providing further evidence of its good intentions by participating in bilateral work groups established to improving the country’s IPR protection, both with the European Union and the United States. Recently, Russia signed the WIPO Internet Treaties regarding electronic distribution of copyrighted media. There are dedicated patent courts as well as state-run arbitration (arbitrazh) courts for settling commercial disputes.
While Russia’s weak track record of protecting copyrights and registered trademarks means that the nation remains on the Priority Watch List of the United States Trade Representative, some improvements have been noted: for instance, the police have started to act against pirated music and movies sold in public places. No statement is made on the enforceability of patents.
Managing Intellectual Property notes that police actions based on penal-law provisions may not always be relied upon. Allegedly, it is sometimes more effective to fight IP abuse by suing the infringer in a civil court and petitioning for temporary injunctions for the duration of the litigation.
There are few up-to-date statistics available regarding the number of IP-related cases handled by the courts and the damages awarded. On the contrary, Russian courts regularly have their impartiality questioned in international media whenever one of the nation’s ‘oligarchs’ is on trial. Even so, it seems unlikely that an ordinary patent dispute would attract anywhere near the amount of political interest that these cases generate, and the simple fact remains that patent protection in Russia can only be provided by the award of a Russian patent. After all, some of the patents from the final days of the Iron Curtain era are still in force, and nobody knows what the next twenty years have in store.
Anders Hansson, Associate