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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Businesses Learning to Guard Rights

Rospatent, the state patent authority, is examining a record number of patent disputes, as businesses become increasingly aggressive in defending their rights.

Yet, bona fide right holders can help the government do a better job in fighting patent violations, Rospatent chief Boris Simonov said Wednesday at a round-table conference organized by the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce.

Rospatent is the arbitrator in hundreds of trademark disputes, among them U.S. coffee giant Starbuck's attempt to reclaim its name from a Russian company.

Last year, Rospatent looked into 2,000 patent disputes, compared with 600 in 2003, Simonov said. In the first six months of 2005, the agency has already considered 1,400 cases.

"It's really important that bodies of the executive branch join forces with bona fide right holders to come up with coordinated activities to better regulate the market," he said.

While acknowledging bumps along the way, Simonov recalled how far Russia had come since the Soviet era, when the country's lone patent holder was the state.

"We shouldn't rack up the mistakes that have been made," he said. "A system has taken shape, and we have to improve it."

One of the main reasons for the rise in the number of cases under Rospatent's consideration is that businesses are increasingly prepared to stand up for their rights, trademark experts said.

"People have become more interested in guarding their intellectual property rights," Nina Polyakova, a patent attorney with IP Pro law firm, said by telephone.

Nonetheless, so-called trademark squatting remains a serious issue. "The topic of use and non-use of trademark continues to be a huge problem," said Peter Necarsulmer, president of the Coalition for Intellectual Property Rights and founder of PBN public relations agency.

While there are loopholes in legislation and enforcement is lax, the problem is exacerbated by right owners caving in to blackmailing by trademark squatters, Necarsulmer said.

"If [right holders] didn't pay blackmailers, would blackmailers be in business?" he said.

According to Russian law, any business can apply to use a trademark if it has not been used for three years.

Of the 2,000 patent disputes considered last year by Rospatent, 680 cases dealt with trademark use -- a proportion that has jumped to 800 out of 1,400 in the first half of this year.

In a well-known case, Starbucks has been tripped up from entering Russia because a local company holds the Starbucks trademark. Rospatent's final word on the issue is still pending.