Counterfeiting and piracy are difficult to quantify in general, and this is especially true in Russia. They affect all areas of the Russian economy, including: consumer products, automotive, pharmaceuticals, etc. Counterfeit and pirated products are mainly distributed through “open-air” markets and online shops, although they may often be found in reputable department stores.
Recognising the magnitude of the problem and its potential impact on consumers’ health and well-being (especially with regard to pharmaceuticals), Russia has demonstrated a willingness to fight counterfeiting and to ensure the compliance of its laws and enforcement mechanisms with international standards.
Protection through customs
When counterfeit or pirated goods are imported to Russia, Russian customs officers can assist right owners in stopping the infringement of their intellectual property rights provided the right owners applied to have the relevant rights entered into a special Customs Intellectual Property Register. Customs officials can also in some cases take action on their own initiative by virtue of their status. The powers of customs officials are limited to copyrights and trademark rights (they do not cover inventions, utility models or designs). The maximum protection period for registered rights is two years, renewable at the request of the right owner.
Issue of parallel imports
Parallel importation is considered as a trademark infringement in Russia, although recent trends in the court practice and relevant legislative initiatives are controversial in this respect.
Since the spring of 2015, the Russian authorities have been pushing for parallel imports to be allowed, at least in relation to certain types of goods (such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive parts, cosmetics, perfumes, alcoholic beverages (except beer) and hygiene products).
In 2017, the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council was provisionally authorised by the Eurasian Economic Council to allow parallel imports of certain goods. The authorisation is, however, subject to the unanimous agreement of all the members of the Eurasian Economic Union and to date, no such agreement has been reached.
In 2018, the Russian Constitutional Court decided that parallel importation may be allowed if the trademark owner follows unfair practices such as price regulation or restriction of competition.
Such an approach was also set forth in Resolution No. 10 “On Applying Part Four of the Russian Civil Code” issued in April 2019 by the Plenum of the Russian Supreme Court.