Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Judge Rules in Favor of Baltika Brand Parasite

It may have copied the Baltika name, the Baltika logos and the Baltika strategy of distinguishing flavors by numbers, but the company that makes Baltika cigarettes is not guilty of violating Baltika’s trademark.

Or so ruled a Moscow arbitration court judge on Monday.

The judge ruled that local tobacco company Mega-Tabak didn’t violate trademark laws by copying Baltika Brewery’s "three-waves" logo and coat of arms — not to mention its name — in its Baltika line of cigarettes, because the nation’s No. 1 beermaker couldn’t prove that it had registered these trademarks in the "tobacco" category with Rospatent, the state patent agency.

The case began in early October, when a small tobacco factory in the Moscow region called Mega-Tabak, part of the SoyuzkontraktTabak holding, produced 500 boxes of "Baltika" cigarettes.

The word Baltika on the cigarette packs was printed in a font strongly reminiscent of the brewing company’s logo. The names of the cigarettes with the digits "3" and "9" in blue and brown colors matched the color of the Baltika No. 3 and Baltika No. 9 labels.

Many lawyers at the time said Baltika had a clear case of patent infringement and had no doubt the brewer would triumph in court.

"As soon as we launched our product on the market a lot of people believed it was 100 percent guaranteed that Baltika would win the case immediately," said Grigory Israelyan, vice president of SoyuzkontraktTabak.

"They were wrong."

SoyuzkontraktTabak examined all the details of Baltika’s trademark registration with Rospatent before deciding to produce cigarettes under the same name, Israelyan said.

"It would be an honor for us if a brewing company decided to make beer called SoyuzkontraktTabak. Personally, I would be grateful to the director of such a company," he said.

The name Baltika and the "three waves" logo are registered in the majority of product categories that Rospatent lists, with the notable exception of "tobacco," said the St. Petersburg-based beermaker’s top lawyer, Alexander Sivkov. Baltika’s coat of arms, however, actually is registered in the tobacco products category.

Sivkov said that if Baltika loses its suit against Mega-Tabak, it may seek compensation for the damages caused by the use of its trademark, which is "millions of rubles."

Representatives from other brewers are keeping a nervous eye on Baltika’s case.

"This is a very worrying sign," said Konstantin Samoilov, marketing director of the Kaluga-based Transmark company, which bottles Zolotaya Bochka, Miller and Staropramen beer.

"It shows once again that trademark legislation is far from perfect," Samoilov said, adding that several companies are currently using the Zolotaya Bochka logo on packages of potato chips and nuts.

"The court’s decision [on Baltika] proves once again that the intellectual property of manufacturers in Russia is poorly protected," he said.