International Law

The Patent Court in Russia: The Missing Link

by Vladimir Biriulin


Russian law now has the trappings of adequate protection for intellectual property (IP), from registration to protection of rights. IP rights are protected by the police, the customs authorities at the borders, and by IP owners bringing civil actions. The Chamber of Patent Disputes (under the Patent Office) and a government anti-monopoly body that deals with unfair IP competition also help to resolve IP conflicts. Decisions made by these two entities can be appealed to a court. Basically, the judicial system operates satisfactorily, or nearly so. The courts are busy with IP cases and issue competent judgments, but it has always been felt by IP practitioners and owners that the system is incomplete.

The Court System. There are two branches of courts: the courts of general jurisdiction (common courts) and arbitration (commercial) courts. Common courts examine all kinds of cases from divorces to robberies. IP cases are on the periphery of their attention and the number of IP cases which they examine is relatively small. Common courts do examine IP cases between parties where at least one person is an individual. Among all intellectual property matters, private persons can only have patents and copyright, so that conflicts in these fields go to common courts, where there is an individual party. This also means that all the trademark cases, which account for about 80 per cent of all IP cases in all the courts, go to the arbitration courts. This is because trademarks can only be registered in the name of legal persons and private entrepreneurs. Individual entrepreneurs are on equal footing in court with legal entities.

This volume of trademark cases also means that the arbitration courts have more practice, and consequently competence, in IP than do the common courts. Arbitration courts also examine all kinds of economic disputes, however, and so cannot concentrate solely on intellectual property. In order to have a more focused approach to resolving intellectual property disputes, the Moscow Arbitration Court created a special team of judges to oversee these cases. That specialization immediately showed positive results. This solution, however, is not practical for every arbitration court in the country.

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Vladimir Biriulin is a partner and chief of the legal department at Gorodissky & Partners in Moscow. Mr. Biriulin counsels clients on Russian and foreign intellectual property law, international IP treaties, conventions, and agreements, technology transfer and licensing, infringement, unfair competition, and copyrights. He also litigates IP cases. Mr. Biriulin lectures in Russia and abroad, and regularly publishes on IP matters.