A barroom brawl often erupts in a flash and is over as soon as it has started. This, however, is the story of a brawl for the barroom itself, which, at least as far as the round that has taken place in Brazil is concerned, is only now coming to an end. The victory Felsberg e Associados law firm has achieved for its client, FKP Sojuzplodoimport, entails the rights to the use of the famous Stolichnaya vodka trademark in Brazil for importation and distribution purposes.
The saga starts with the fall of communism and the opening of the Russian market for free enterprise. Within the economic environment which saw the privatization of state companies, many opportunities were taken which adhered to all the regulations concerning company and brand registration whilst there were others which did not.
One product ready for privatization was the world-famous Russian vodka Stolichnaya, the rights to which were owned, at the time, by the state company 'VVO Sojuzplodoimport'. In 1990, a private company was registered by the newly formed Russian government, under the name of 'VAO Sojuzplodoimport', illegally claiming to be the rightful successor to the Soviet State owned company.
During the years in which the Russian economy was opening up, with the Russian authorities' attentions focused elsewhere, VAO passed a number of the vodka brand names registered to VVO outside Russia into its own name.
In Brazil, the registrations of the brands of vodka under the name VVO were filed in the 1970s and in 1993, the first request for transfer into the name of VAO was received by the Brazilian authorities. In June 1994, a company called Plodimex do Brasil requested transfer of VAO's registration to its own name, and in March 2000, Dutch company 'Spirits International' requested the transfer of brand ownership from Plodimex to itself.
"These changes in the corporate organization of the company and the transfer of rights from one brand name to another appeared to be smokescreens to hide the true origins of the company," explains Eduardo Turkienicz, Partner with Felsberg e Associados and member of the firm's Intellectual Property department.
By this time, the brand rights had been registered in other countries for a number of years, and quite often the statute of limitations for appeal against such registrations had passed – as was the case in Brazil.
Meanwhile, FKP Sojuzplodoimport had been established by the Russian Federation as the state organ...