SPI loses Stolichnaya trademark appeal in Benelux
SPI Group has been dealt a legal blow in Benelux after a court upheld an earlier ruling that awarded the Stolichnaya trademark to a company owned by the Russian government.
In 2015, a Dutch court ruled that SPI must return its Stolichnaya trademark in Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) to Russia’s state-owned Sojuzplodoimport. The ruling also covered the Moskovskaya vodka brand.
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 many years.
Shefler maintains he 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.
Following a challenge from SPI over the 2015 case, the Court of Appeal at The Hague has upheld the original ruling.
“SPI is disappointed with the judgement in the Netherlands, even though its Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya have not been sold in the Benelux since 2015,” said a spokesperson for the company.
“Unfortunately, the Dutch court did not use this opportunity to correct errors made previously by the lower court. SPI will continue to pursue all available legal remedies in the Netherlands, including the appeal of this decision to the Dutch Supreme Court.”
According to Reuters, the latest ruling even extends beyond the one in 2015 by stating that the Stoli trademark also belongs to Sojuzplodoimport. The publication also states that SPI has been ordered to repay the profit it has made from Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya in Benelux since 1999.
Currently, SPI and its affiliates own the Stolichnaya, Stoli and Moskovskaya trademarks in more than 180 countries. It does not own the trademarks in Russia, and is embroiled in other court cases with Sojuzplodoimport around the world.
Last year, SPI hailed a “significant legal victory” against Sojuzplodoimport in the US, when its court case was suspended due to the Russian Federation’s “failure” to produce relevant documents. A case in Australia was suspended for the same reason.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, the Federal Court of Appeal confirmed SPI’s legal ownership of the Stolichnaya trademarks.