Fed. Treasury Enter. Sojuzplodoimport v. Spirits Intern. B.V.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Trademarks, Russian Law
  • Date Filed: 11-24-2014
  • Case #: 14–cv–0712 (SAS)
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164119
  • Westlaw Citation: 2014 WL 6655861
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Russian law, a unitary enterprise may not claim ownership of intellectual property assigned to it by the owner.

Opinion (Scheindlin): A company owned by the Russian Federation (Federal Treasury Enterprise Sojuzplodoimport, or “FTE”) claimed eight companies allegedly infringed the STOLICHNAYA vodka trademarks. Under the Lanham Act, courts in the Second Circuit have held that a party does not have standing unless that party owns the mark at issue. After receiving expert testimony on the relevant Russian law, the court re-addressed the question of whether, under Russian law, FTE may own the marks at issue. Under the Russian Civil Code, FTE is a "unitary enterprise", which is “a commercial organization which has not been granted the right of ownership of the property assigned to it by the owner.” As such, the Court's analysis largely a hinged on whether intellectual property, like trademarks, are excepted from the general unitary enterprise provision prohibiting the grant of ownership rights. The Court determined that, as a “unitary enterprise,” FTE did not own trademark rights under Russian law. The Court expressed discomfort with addressing a foreign case of first impression, stating a desire for a process to certify such questions to foreign courts. Nonetheless, the Court found that "[b]ecause the instant case is factually distinguishable from all of the Russian cases...I must rely predominantly on the [Russian] Civil Code." Accordingly, plaintiff's Lanham Act claims were DISMISSED for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

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