US: Russia drops Stoli claims
The Russian government has withdrawn its final two claims on the rights to Stolichnaya vodka in the US, according to the brand's owner SPI Group.
Russian state-owned conglomerate FKP Soyuzplodoimport and SPI have been engaged in a long-running legal battle over the rights to the premium vodka brand, which is distributed by Pernod Ricard in many markets worldwide.
SPI said yesterday (20 July) that Soyuzplodoimport had dropped its last two claims against Allied Domecq, the former distributor of SPI's portfolio in the US.
The accusations, SPI said, concerned alleged unfair competition practices by Allied and false claims of the Russian origin of Stolichnaya. However, on Monday (17 July), Soyuzplodoimport voluntarily dropped the claims, SPI said.
The move followed a US court ruling in March that dismissed Soyuzplodoimport's claims against SPI.
SPI general counsel Andrey Skurikhin said: "We achieved a complete victory in March and we are delighted that our distributor Allied Domecq has now achieved a complete victory as well."
Skurikhin said the "fantasies" of Soyuzplodoimport CEO Vladimir Loginov had caused the legal battle. He added: "FKP has spent a lot of effort pursuing Mr. Loginov's fantasy that SPI's vodka is not genuine Russian vodka. Now FKP itself has abandoned that claim. We are considering our legal options against FKP for attacking SPI's business reputation."
Skurikhin said SPI was confident that the US Court of Appeals would back the ruling, in the face of the "expected" appeal from the Russian government.
The decision is another shot in the arm for Pernod, which attained the rights to Stolichnaya last September after its acquisition of Allied. The US is the largest premium vodka market in the world and the French drinks giant saw the rights to Stolichnaya as "a key asset" of Allied.
In May, Pernod started talks with the Russian government on the future of Stolichnaya. At the time, Pernod said an agreement would "represent a key milestone" in its bid to buy the brand outright from SPI. As yet, no deal has been struck between Pernod and the Russian government on Stolichnaya and a slew of other Russian spirits brands.
Officials at Pernod in White Plains, NY, declined to comment.
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