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Geographical indications on the horizon in Russia

30 July 2019

On 18 July 2019 the Duma passed a bill with provisions on geographical indications (GIs) on its final reading. This is a new and long-awaited IP development in Russia.

GIs are closely related to appellations of origin (AOs) and the relevant provision on each are sandwiched together in the same section of the bill. GIs are a means of individualising and denoting goods whose characteristics are related to their geographical origin. They differ from AOs in that the latter are used for goods whose properties are “exclusively or mainly” determined by their geographical origin (ie, by natural or human resources of a specific geographical location). The requirements for the goods for which GIs can be applied relate to the geographical location to a “certain large extent” only. Unlike AOs, the bill does not detail what attributes of the geographical location (eg, natural, human or other factors) determine the characteristics of the goods bearing a GI, what documents should support it and how characteristics of the goods should relate to their geographical location.

The bill also sets out the differences between GIs and AOs, depending on whether all stages of production are realised within the boundaries of a given geographical region. In the case of AOs, the law provides that the goods should be produced completely within the territory of the geographical region at issue, while in case of GIs at least one stage of production determining the goods’ characteristics should be located in a given geographical region.

Another novelty is that the bill would also enlarge the scope of persons entitled to obtain protection for both means of individualisation. Aside from physical and legal persons, the law provides that associations (and members of such associations) producing or distributing the goods will be able to use registered AOs and GIs.

The bill solves yet another longstanding problem by establishing that, in order to be eligible for registration in Russia, an applicant for an AO should submit evidence of such registration from their own country, while in the case of GIs the applicant will be able to submit any similar document according to the law of their own country (eg, a certification mark).

It is difficult to evaluate what the consequences of the bill will be once it comes into force. However, it is widely expected that it will allow protection to be granted to a large number of designations that cannot be protected today because of the strict requirements for AOs with regard to quality and reputation related to their geographical location.

It is expected that the bill will be signed by the president before the end of July 2019. It will then come in force one year after publication.