New Russian legislation may enable more individuals to own trademarks
Analysts around the globe have noted that a long-term business impact of the covid-19 pandemic has been a significant increase in the number of people suddenly working on their own. A huge number of bloggers, teachers, marketing and business consultants and other specialists now work independently, with many even having their own brands and business names.
In 2019, some Russian regions trialled a new tax system for self-employed individuals. In 2020, fast tracked in part because of the pandemic, this was made available throughout the whole country.
Self-employed individuals are those engaged in professional activities on their own without the involvement of an employing organisation and without being registered as individual entrepreneurs. They enjoy a low tax rate (between 4% and 6%). Until now, it was impossible to register a trademark in favour of an individual (including a self-employed individual) in Russia.
Generally speaking, the legal systems of different countries can be divided into two categories regarding trademark rights. Some countries (eg, the United States, members of the European Union and China) - permit individuals to own trademark registrations; while others - like Russia – have historically given this right only to corporate organisations and registered individual entrepreneurs.
The new bill
On 31 January 2022, the Russian government submitted the bill On Amendments to Part Four of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, with the aim of broadening those who are entitled to apply for a trademark.
The government proposes deleting the provisions of the Civil Code that currently limit eligible trademark applicants to legal entities and individual entrepreneurs.
The bill makes no mention of foreign individuals. At the same time, however, the identical scope of rights would be granted to, at least, members of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. As stated in Article 2 of the Convention, nationals of any country under it shall enjoy in all other participating countries the advantages that their respective laws grant, or may hereafter grant, to their own nationals.
Potential advantages and consequences
If the bill passes, it will dramatically open up the opportunity to obtain a registered trademark to a huge section of the population. On the one hand, it is a significant improvement conferred by the government to ensure equal rights. On the other, it provides some room for bad faith and the abuse of rights.
In view of this, it is necessary to remind rights holders that Russia is a first-to-file country. The earlier one applies for trademark registration, the better.
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