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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dairies Lock Horns Over 33 Cows

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It’s shaping up to be a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious battle.

Two dairies are caught in a fierce fight for the rights to the popular brand name 33 Cows (33 Korovi), inspired by Russia’s version of the film "Mary Poppins."

The Ostankino dairy, with backing from the courts in hand, is preparing to launch milk products next week packaged with the 33 Cows logo of — no surprise — 33 spotted cows.

The Ochakovo dairy, which helped create the brand name in 1997, is crying foul, heatedly accusing Ostankino of trademark infringement and threatening to sue.

"We will block outside companies’ attempts to release our brand," said Viktor Yurin, general director of Ochakovo. "Personally, I think that if a company lacks a strong brand of its own it tries to create one by taking those of its competitors."

But Ochakovo has so far been unable to prevent 33 Cows from being adopted by its rival, showing once again how volatile intellectual property issues remain in Russia.

The 33 Cows brand was designed by advertising agency Young & Rubicam. The idea for the brand came from the song of the same name in the film "Mary Poppins, Good-Bye!" (Mary Poppins, Do Svidaniya!).

The song’s authors, composer Maxim Dunayevsky and poet Naum Olev, signed an agreement in November 1996 permitting the "reproduction, distribution and advertising … on any audiovisual carriers" of their creation for five years.

There was no clause in the accord providing for the registration of a 33 Cows trademark.

Ochakovo partner Tetra Pak bought the rights to the agreement in 1997 and registered the 33 Cows brand.

The dairy began churning out 33 Cows products, and its popularity has steadily grown. Some 14 percent of Muscovites now buy 33 Cows goods, and the brand is recognized by 34.4 percent of consumers, according to the Comcon market research agency.

But last February, rival Ostankino drew up its own agreement with poet Olev for the rights to the 33 Cows brand for the next 25 years. It asked Rospatent, the State Patent Agency, to annul Tetra Pak’s registration of the brand, and the chamber approved the appeal last summer.

"The old agreement only provided for rights to use the poem for advertising purposes, there was nothing about the registration of the trademark," said Igor Evgrafev, head of Ostankino’s legal department.

Ochakovo is appealing to the patents chamber.

Tetra Pak officials said they planned to keep out of the fight.

Meanwhile, Ostankino is pressing ahead with the launch of its 33 Cows products. The packaging will be virtually identical to Ochakovo’s: The 33 spotted cows will be drawn against a dark-green background and the blue lettering will have the same font.

"We will position this product in the higher price band for the more demanding consumer," said Ostankino general director Alexander Shevchenko.

Products with the 33 Cows brand will account for about 10 percent of the 200 tons produced daily at the dairy, he said.