Dutch court confirms Russia’s rights to vodka brands
MOSCOW, February 19 (RAPSI) – The Dutch Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal filed by Yuri Shefler’s SPI Group against a lower courts’ decision that SPI is not the rightful owner of the Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya trademarks.
With this decision the Dutch Supreme Court has confirmed that the rights to these world famous vodka brands belong to Russian state company Soyuzplodoimport, Kommersant newspaper writes.
Soyuzplodoimport sees this decision as a confirmation of its rights to distribute Stolichanaya and Moskovskaya vodka in the Netherlands and the Benelux countries, where it has been embroiled in litigation since 2003.
“The Dutch Supreme Court’s decision is especially important for restoring Russia’s rights to these trademarks abroad, because the agreements that gave SPI Group the right to them were signed in the Netherlands,” Soyuzplodoimport said.
The Russian company is taking the Dutch court’s decision as an indication of its right to distribute Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya in the other EU countries because these rights must be recognized in all EU countries without the threat of further litigation.
Soyuzplodoimport registered the rights to the Stolichnaya brand name in 1974, which were then transferred to its legal successor of the same name in 1991. In 1997 Yuri Shefler bought the rights to several vodka brands, including Stolichnaya, for $300,000.
The Russian authorities disputed the actions Shefler’s company, which granted licenses to use the Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya brands to vodka manufacturers worldwide in the early 1990s.
Shefler said he bought the rights legally after state-owned Soyuzplodoimport was privatized. However, the Russian authorities disagreed and appealed to the Dutch court, starting a series of trials that lasted almost a decade.
On July 26, 2012, the Hague Court of Appeals dismissed the Dutch-based Spirits International’s appeal against the decision giving Russia the rights to the Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya vodka brands. The court also banned the Dutch company from writing "Russkaya Vodka" (Russian Vodka) and "Sdelano v Rossii" (Made in Russia) on the labels.
Europe is a major market for SPI Group. According to Euromonitor International, in 2012 SPI sold 9 million liters of Stolichnaya vodka in Europe, or nearly a third of global sales (33 million liters). Moskovskaya sales worldwide are more modest at only 4.7 million liters.