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Russian vodka trademark auction gets green light

The District Court of The Hague rejected a last-minute appeal by the Russian state-owned FKP Sojuzplodoimport, meaning the auction of the Benelux trademarks of 18 Russian state-owned vodka brands will proceed.

Stolichnaya Vodka
The frozen vodka assets will be auctioned on 6 December 2022

The former majority shareholders of Yukos Oil company will auction the Benelux trademarks as part of their US$58 billion damages claim.

The 18 trademarks, which include Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya, will be auctioned on 6 December in the Netherlands.

The backstory

GML, Yukos Universal, Hulley Enterprises, and Veteran Petroleum were the majority shareholders of the former Yukos Oil Company.

The former Yukos majority shareholders seized the Benelux trademarks for ‘illegal, politically motivated expropriation’ of the Russian oil giant in 2003.

Around the year 2000, Yukos Oil had grown to become the biggest oil company in Russia.

However, after CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky exposed alleged government corruption in 2003, the company claimed it was ‘intentionally bankrupted’ by the Kremlin. Khodorkovsky was sent to prison in Siberia after a trial.

In 2014, the independent Arbitral Tribunal at the Peace Palace in The Hague concluded “the Russian authorities were conducting a ruthless campaign to destroy Yukos [and] appropriate its assets”. As a result, it awarded Yukos’ majority shareholders more than US$50bn in compensation.

In February 2020, The Hague Court of Appeal upheld the awards with immediate enforceability.

The Dutch Supreme Court acknowledged the ruling in November 2021, but referred a ‘minor’ part of the case to the Amsterdam Court of Appeal on procedural grounds.

However, as the Russian Federation has not acknowledged the compensation, the shareholders seized its assets, in the form of the 18 Benelux trademarks.

The Dutch Court of Appeal in The Hague approved the seizure of the Benelux trademarks in June 2022.

No need for ‘reassessment’

The court said about the Russian state’s last-minute appeal: “FKP has… not presented new circumstances, which necessitate a reassessment.”

It added: “[I]t is up to [HVY] to choose the time of execution… [T]here is no reason to wait any longer.”

Equilibristen Bailiffs will hold the auction on Tuesday 6 December at 2pm CET in Nieuwspoort, Bezuidenhoutseweg 67 in The Hague. The trademarks will be auctioned in a single lot.

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