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Fear Stokes the Imagination

10 August 2022

While having national exhaustion of rights Russian government issued a list of goods allowed for parallel import. This sparked off a number of publications frowning upon one more step allegedly squeezing intellectual property rights in Russia.

The publications ignore the fact that parallel import is normal practice in a number of countries. The reason for partial allowance of parallel import was that a number companies left Russia and thus emptied the market of some products. So some measures to satisfy the demand were justified. Notwithstanding, some people misrepresented this as allowing counterfeit goods to be brought to the country which is absolutely unacceptable.

The list of allowed goods is long and it was prepared by the people from the Ministry of Industry and Trade. A closer look at the list shows that some items therein may be confusing. The compilers of the list admitted that, and from the beginning they stated that the list would be reviewed and amended from time to time depending on the demand and supply of a given product.

Despite its short existence the list has already been amended a couple of times. It may be assumed that the Ministry of Industry and Trade monitors the situation on the market but overlooks sometimes the changes that are taking place. This assumption is supported by trademarks owners themselves. As has been noted above parallel import is allowed only for those goods the supply of which is scarce.

A foreign company doing business in Russia found its products in the list allowing parallel import though it traded profusely in its goods on the Russian market. A consignment of the original goods from unspecified source appeared on the market which caused plummeting sales of the trademark owner. A complaint was forwarded to the Ministry of Industry and Trade. A response came the next day: the relevant goods were immediately excluded from the list and the Ministry issued a revised version of the list. It should be noted that interaction with the Ministry is becoming routine. Other companies also brought attention of the Ministry to wrong inclusions in the list and had it corrected.

The reaction of the Ministry shows that the situation is quite fluid. Trademark owners are advised to monitor the market and react timely to possible parallel import. The panicky reports in the media are not justified. In order to enhance opportunities for protection of trademarks the owners are well advised to register their trademarks with the patent office and, which is also important, with the customs register. This will allow the business to build a solid barrier against infringement.