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SPI loses Stolichnaya trademark battle in Benelux

SPI Group has said it is “extremely disappointed” by the ruling of a Dutch court stating it must return its Stolichnaya Vodka trademark in the Benelux region to the Russian state.

SPI Group will fight to overturn the loss of its Stolichnaya Vodka trademark in the Benelux countries

Rotterdam’s District Court ordered SPI to hand the Stolichnaya Vodka trademark back to the Russian state within three months or face fines of €50,000 (US$55,000) per day, and a one-off fine of €100,000 (US$109,700).

The ruling only applies to the European countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. SPI still owns the Stolichnaya trademark in over 190 countries, except Russia, where it is a separate state-owned brand.

SPI’s Moskovskaya vodka brand is also covered under the ruling.

SPI Group, founded by billionaire businessman Yuri Shefler in 1997, has been locked in a battle with the Russian government over the ownership of the trademarks for 15 years.

Shefler bought the rights to Stolichnaya after it became privatised following the breakup of the Soviet Union, but the Russian state disputes the legitimacy of this acquisition.

“The decision is the result of a long effort by the Russian government to confiscate the Stolichnaya trademarks, purchased legitimately by SPI from private shareholders and not from the state,” a statement from SPI Group read.

“The trouble between SPI and the Russian Federation started with an order from President Putin in 2000. Since that time SPI has been in litigation all over the world to protect its claim.

“While the Benelux judgement is a setback for the company, we have had recent successes in courts in other jurisdictions in respect to the same trademarks, such as Chile, Austria and the United States.”

SPI Group – parent of Stoli Group, owner of Stolichnaya – said it believes the Rotterdam ruling is incorrect and is “examining options” with lawyers.

It said since the ruling only applied to the Benelux countries, it only affects a “very small part” of its overall marketplace.

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