Impacts of the Russian-Ukraine war on Intellectual PropertyAAA IPRIGHT2
War affects all aspects of society. Intellectual Property is no exception to that equation. In fact, it can be argued that IP is one of the areas that receive the most severe impacts from the wars. Taking a look at the recent Russian-Ukraine conflict that had had some elements insinuating the beginning of World War III, we can see that Intellectual Property has been badly damaged, and even if the war ends tomorrow, the healing mechanism for IP protection in the world might last for years.
First, it must be stated that although IP is important to the development of society, human lives are the most important resource in any society. Therefore, the impacts on IP, in general, can’t be equalized to the loss of a single life throughout the war.
Consequently, we strongly condemn the action of war and hope that the Russian-Ukraine conflict can come to an end in the shortest amount of time.
Impacts of Russia’s decision on the IP field
Back in early March 2022, just days after the start of the Russian invasion on February 24th, 2022, as part of the United States and Europe’s efforts to condemn the action of Russia, the USPTO, and the EUIPO suspended work with their Russian counterparts, Rospatent.
However, this action has a consequence as Russia has quickly retaliated in a manner that is unforeseen by anybody by issuing a decree that legalizes the unauthorized use of patents and other related IP rights owned by companies from unfriendly countries on Russian soil.
This means that from that moment, all establishments in Russia will have the rights by their government to produce and sell commercially the once protected IP assets from unfriendly countries to Russia.
What’s worse is that unfriendly countries to Russia in February 2022 are expansive. The Unfriendly Countries List includes countries that had imposed sanctions or severed diplomatic relations with Russia. There are about 48 countries around the world that were added to the list, including world power such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and of course, the European Union.
Businesses that have headquarters in unfriendly nations won’t be able to protect their IP rights in Russia if an infringement action happens on Russian soil by Russian businesses.
Besides patents, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, in an effort to try to reduce the impacts of the sanctions by the unfriendly countries, is considering removing protection for other IP assets such as trademarks and copyrights.
In addition, retailers in Russia also have the right bestowed upon them by the Russian government to import items without the authorization of the trademark owner from unfriendly countries.
Consequences of Russia’s actions
Without needs to be further said that the actions of Russia will put them in direct international confrontation with other countries.
Not just physical actions, but Russia also compromises its obligations to international treaties that Russia has been a part of for decades, even centuries.
Basically, obligations under international conventions require signatories to provide mutual protection under their laws in order to receive the advantages of protection under the laws of other convention countries.
From now on, just from the economy’s point of view and impacts, Russian businesses will get heavy discrimination from not just international countries but also from international businesses.
The businesses that have their rights impacted by the decision of Russia will take legal claims and trade retaliation to the international court.
The international nations will then have the legal basis to create even heavier sanctions on Russia and its businesses.
At the moment, there have already had reports about the seizure of Russian goods/assets outside of Russia.
The seizure and suspension will increase proportionally each day that Russia refuses to cooperate with the world nations.
Within years or even months, international confidence in Russia and Russian businesses will get to an extremely low standard and it might take Russia decades, or even centuries to regain that trust, or never at all.
History of the confiscation of assets during war
Russia is not the first country to remove intellectual property asset protection in this manner.
There have been many other incidents that happened over 100 years ago back in World War I where the Allies confiscated enemy patents, primarily German and Austrian patents.
The United States alone seized over 4,000 enemy patents, which was made possible by the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act, which authorized the seizure of copyrights and patents owned by enemy countries.
This act was notorious for causing the confiscation of the patent for aspirin (medication used to reduce pain, fever, or inflammation) – a German invention.
Germany is a genius country with countless patents protected worldwide. Therefore, the action of confiscation due to the war caused more damage to Germany economically than to the Allies, as there are not that many patented protected inventions of the Allies in Germany. Even if there were, as the size of Germany compared to the rest of the world is insignificant, Germany can’t create as much of an impact on the Allies as they wanted.
Consequently, as part of the way to deal with this method, along with the fact that no one wants to let the others know about their inventions and tactics during the war, the patent sharing indicator in both the world wars got very low.
How can brand owners protect their rights during the war?
The Russia-Ukraine war is likely not the only war we will see in this century or our lifetime.
As international conflicts can arise at any given time, brand owners need to learn to defend their rights and interests when a scenario like war, or even worse, a world war, happens.
As war occurs, the enforcement of the law in the economic field got loosened as the international communities will focus more on the important matters to human life such as humanity problems, safe and shelter, hygiene, food, water, etc.
The violation of a brand by an organization in the other half of the world will not likely get noticed and prioritized by the world.
However, even if war happens, international treaties won’t get demolished or lose their effects. Some international treaties and policies provide avenues for grievance and even reparations for damages caused by hostile acts committed during wartime.
Many international treaties and conventions were adopted in the aftermath of wars. The United Nations, including WIPO, was established as a necessary consequence of war.
Therefore, to protect their rights during wars, businesses should exploit these legal remedies during or after when the war has ended, depending on the situation.
This is because, as we have seen from Russia’s action of outrightly legalizing the infringement actions made by businesses within their jurisdiction, the countermeasures can be hard to achieve as Russia is not an organization, multinational organization, not even just some country.
It is one of the world power and its actions can’t be reversed by one organization or any nation, including other world power alone.
International cooperation will take a huge role in the fight against Russia’s actions.
In addition, because Intellectual Property rights require nations to collaborate, which promotes consumer goodwill, it also allows for proper redressal of IPR infringement in all countries.
As a result, IPR enforcement must be consistent across all countries. Brands must ensure that their brand is enforced at all times in order to maintain the brand’s goodwill and reputation, as well as the establishment of a legal stand in case some bad situations happen.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, there are cases in which brand owners temporarily suspend their renewal of patents, industrial designs, and trademarks and therefore, it creates legal loopholes if some infringement actions occur during these times.
It’s important that brands keep their brand and the needed protection for their IP assets alive.
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