Russian trade mark wars – PEPPA PIG and others

An unprecedented judgement opens the door to widespread infringement of the intellectual property rights held by foreigners in Russia. As a result foreign domiciled parties holding intellectual property rights in Russia should consider placing notices on their international websites, setting out their rights and their position regarding the use of their patents, designs, trade marks and copyright in Russia.

One Entertainment, the proprietor of the PEPPA PIG trade mark and owner of the copyright subsisting in the cartoon character, has recently found itself unsuccessful in what, at first, appeared to be a straight forward trade mark and copyright infringement case.

Ivan Kozhevnikov, a Russian artist and entrepreneur, created his own version of the PEPPA PIG cartoon character and was subsequently sued for trade mark and copyright infringement by One Entertainment in Russia. In light of the recent economic sanctions placed on Russia pursuant to its invasion of Ukraine, Judge Andrei Slavinsky dismissed the claim and held that his decision was influenced by the “unfriendly actions of the United States of America and affiliated foreign countries”. Mr. Kozhevnikov was lawfully permitted to infringe One Entrainment’s copyright and trade mark rights in and to the PEPPA PIG character in Russia.

McDonalds (as well as numerous other large enterprises such as Apple and Disney) have recently decided temporarily to cease operations in Russia. On 19 March 2022, following the above judgement delivered by Judge Andrei Slavinsky, a Russian fast-food chain called Uncle Vanya proceeded to file an application to register a mark which bears a strong resemblance to McDonald's iconic Golden Arches.

The PEPPA PIG judgement is in line with the announcement of the Russian government that the use in Russia (presumably by Russian nationals) of patented inventions, registered industrial designs, utility models, trade marks and other forms of intellectual property owned by nationals of countries Russia deems “unfriendly nations” will be permitted without permission from the intellectual property holder or payment of any compensation to them.  The USA, UK, EU, Switzerland, Australia, Ukraine, Japan, Canada, Norway, Iceland, South Korea and 10 other nations have been declared as “unfriendly nations” by the Russian Government.