Russia dismisses patent protection for patentees from “unfriendly” countries

By decree, Russia has de facto abolished the protection of patents whose owners are registered in, do business in, or have citizenship of so-called “unfriendly” countries. In concrete terms, this means that Russian companies or individuals can make use of these patents with impunity and the patent holders cannot claim compensation. This can be seen as a precursor to a coming nationalization of all patents held by non-Russian applicants.

In this regard, the removal of intellectual property protection in wartime is not without precedent. Smithsonian Magazine describes how the German company Bayer lost its American patent on aspirin when the U.S. government seized property from companies associated with its enemies.

According to state media, the possibility of extending the decree to trademark rights in general and well-known trademarks is not ruled out. With many global companies pulling out of Russia, Russian-owned products could soon be sold under false flags as iPhones, Big Macs or Coca-Cola.

The Russian Ministry of Economy justifies the need for this measure by citing „the impact of the disruption of supply chains, as well as shortages of goods and services that have arisen due to the new sanctions imposed by Western countries, and would need to be mitigated in the market.“

Experts say the impact of losing patent protection will vary from company to company, depending on what sales and investments are affected. The U.S. government has long warned of intellectual property rights violations in the country. Last year, Russia was one of nine countries on a „Priority Watch List“ for alleged failures to protect intellectual property. 

Violation of TRIPS Agreement

In fact, Russia is thus violating Articles 3 and 4 of the TRIPS Agreement, i.e., the prohibition of national preference and the most-favored-nation clause. Since ratification of and compliance with TRIPS are prerequisites for membership in the WTO, this could lead to Russia being excluded from the World Trade Organization. So, whether Russia does itself a disservice with this measure and further isolates itself in the world remains to be seen.

What we need to see clearly, however, is that the measures taken are yet another example of how Putin wants to change relations between Russia and the world forever.

Article incorporates material from the Washington Post, 3/10/2022.