RUSSIA: UDV says Moscow Smirnoff ruling "defies common sense"

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UDV, owner of Smirnoff vodka, has suffered its second setback in as many weeks in its battle for the vodka trademark in the Russian market. The Moscow City Court, yesterday, ruled not to recognize the Smirnoff trademark as 'well-known' in the Russian Federation.

"Yesterday's decision defies common sense," said Peter Necarsulmer, an adviser to GuinnessUDV. "The Court's finding that the world's best selling vodka brand is not 'well-known' to Russian consumers is an immediate and unpleasant reminder of the truth of Russian President Putin's recent comments about the need to reform the Russian judicial system," Necarsulmer added.

In a statement UDV said the Moscow City Court decision had no effect on the continued sale or production of Smirnoff vodka in Russia. However, the ruling is a second embarrassment to the company, which recently lost a court battle in the Krasnodar district. The Crimean-based court ruled that it was illegal for UDV to use the trademarks, labels or any other brand-related material carrying even part of the Smirnov name.

"Just like recent local court decisions in the Krasnodar Krai, the Moscow City Court ruling of today stands in marked contrast to dozens of legal decisions upholding GuinnessUDV's exclusive rights to the Smirnoff trademark," said Necarsulmer.

"Courts and national trademark offices throughout the former Soviet Union and the world have recently ruled either to recognize the Smirnoff trademark as famous and well-known, or against registration of the Trading House of P.A. Smirnov's competing trademark, including France, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, among many others," added Necarsulmer.

"Owners of the Smirnoff trademark have already appealed the biased and unfounded decisions of the Krasnodar Krai Courts against Smirnoff and its producer Liviz to the Supreme Court where we are confident of victory," said Bob Sexton of Salans, Hertzfeld & Heilbronn, lawyers for GuinnessUDV, owner of the Smirnoff trademark.

"We look forward with equal confidence to a similarly favourable and objective ruling on the evidence by Rospatent (the Russian Agency for Patents and Trademarks) to establish once and for all that Smirnoff is 'well-known' not only throughout the world, but in Russia as well," he said.

Necarsulmer said: "Protecting GuinnessUDV's rights to the Smirnoff trademark according to Russian and international law, including recognition of Smirnoff as well-known in the Russian Federation, will be an important signal that the President's statement is a real commitment and not just words," Necarsulmer concluded.

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