The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that the rights to the Stolichnaya brand of vodka belong to Russia, and not to the group of companies SPI Group of billionaire Yuri Shefler, writes the Financial Times. This is a key victory in one of the longest-running trademark conflicts in the history, the newspaper notes.
The court rejected the appeal of the SPI Group for a 2018 decision banning the company from selling vodka under controversial brands in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. He also demanded that SPI pay Russia an amount equal to its profit from the sale of Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya in Benelux since 1999. Another € 145,000 SPI Group must pay Russia to cover costs.
The group of companies emphasized that it will explore the possibilities for legal protection “at the level of the European Union”. She criticized the court for not allowing her to provide some evidence that was "hushed up by our opponents for many years." “These documents demonstrate that the decision made in relation to Spirits [the SPI-affiliated company of Spirits International] more than 10 years ago did not have a basis and would be reversed if the evidence had not been examined had been studied. This is a real miscarriage of justice, ”said SPI.
Yuri Shefler is suing Russia for the right to use the Stolichnaya brand for about 20 years. In 1997, he became president of the state structure Soyuzplodoimport, which owned the brands of Soviet vodka (Stolichnaya, Moskovskaya, Russkaya, etc.). Scheffler created a company with an almost identical name, Soyuzplodimport, which acquired the rights to 43 brands from Soyuzplodoimport, including Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya vodkas, for $ 300,000. Subsequently, the Accounts Chamber concluded that the fair price for the brands is $ 400 million. In 2001, the Supreme Arbitration Court of Russia recognized the right of the state to own brands of “Soviet” vodkas. “Rights have always belonged to a Russian state company. This was confirmed by 7 courts of the Netherlands over the past 17 years, ”Soyuzplodimport told the Financial Times.
FT notes that a court in The Hague in June will consider another case to ban the sale by SPI of vodka in 13 EU countries. Litigation also continues in the US and Australia. The Austrian Supreme Court ruled in favor of Russia twice, and SPI won cases in Greece and Brazil.
Shefler is currently abroad and owns around the world - he has homes in London and Miami, a villa on the Cote d'Azur, two mansions in Jurmala. The billionaire also has British citizenship. In the early 2000s, a criminal case was opened against Shefler on alcohol smuggling and the organization of a criminal community. He was put on the wanted list and arrested in absentia, but subsequently all charges were dropped.