After 18 years of negotiations, Russia became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on August 22, 2012. At the time of its membership, Russia had in place the legislative framework necessary to achieve compliance with its WTO obligations. Just before Christmas, the United States (US) Trade Representative submitted to Congress its first annual “Report on Russia’s Implementation of the WTO Agreement” (Report). The Report reviews the specific commitments Russia undertook as part of its accession to the WTO and its implementation of these commitments. The Report states that while Russia has taken many important steps to implement all of its WTO commitments in most areas, there are areas where more progress is needed.
Regarding intellectual property, the Report describes a number of positive steps taken by Russia to implement its WTO intellectual property related commitments into its legal regime such as:
1. Amending Part IV of its Civil Code relating to the protection of various forms of IPR (including patents, trademarks and copyrights and related rights);
2. Updating its civil enforcement procedures;
3. Adopting the legal framework for Russia’s implementation of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties;
4. Amending its Civil Code to clarify that an existing domain name will not serve as a ground for refusal to register a third party’s trademark or service mark for that name;
5. Standardizing its patent fees to apply the same to Russian and non-Russian entities;
6. Amending its Law on Activity Licensing to ensure that copyright infringers cannot renew a license to engage in optical media production;
7. Revoking its reservation to Article 18 of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works thus allowing Russia to provide copyright protection for works that existed prior to 1995 and originated from the US, any other party to the Berne Convention or the WTO Agreement;
8. Approving in June 2013, its first law dedicated to decreasing online piracy of television and film (although legislative measures are currently being drafted to amend this law); and
9. Amending its Criminal Code to establish fines and to reflect adjustments to the threshold for the application of criminal procedures and penalties for willful counterfeiting or commercial-scale piracy (A method of calculating such fines based on the value of the counterfeits being produced or sold was implemented in August 2013. Previously, administrative fines for criminal trademark violations were fixed and very low.).
In December 2010, Russia adopted the law “On Customs Regulation” to provide ex officio authority for customs officials and strengthen ex officio provisions contained in the Customs Union (CU). This law updated procedures for registering certain IPRs with the Russian Customs IPR Register. However, the Report notes that Russia has yet to fully harmonize its IPR regime with the regulatory principles adopted under the CU.
Also in 2010, Russia passed amendments to the Law on the Circulation of Medicines which came into force on the day Russia became a WTO member. These amendments provided protection for undisclosed test or other undisclosed data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products. Specifically, these amendments provide 6 years of protection for such data from reliance by a subsequent applicant seeking marketing approval for the same pharmaceutical product. However, the Report states that final regulations containing the detailed provisions need to ensure implementation of this protection have yet to be promulgated.
The Report also states that the current IPR enforcement environment in Russia remains weak and that end-user software piracy, sales of counterfeit goods and online piracy are particular concerns. What is particularly concerning is that based on the information available, during the past few years, overall enforcement of IPR has not increased, but has instead decreased. According to the Report:
1. An “ongoing barrier to Russia’s adequate and effective enforcement of IPR is the lack of resources devoted to hiring and training law enforcement personal to investigate and prosecute IPR crimes”;
2. In 2012, the number of criminal raids declined significantly;
3. During the past two years, the amount of resources devoted to IPR economic crime has sharply declined; and
4. There has been a notable decline in ex officio actions by law enforcement.
Please watch the BRIC Wall for further updates on Russia’s implementation of its WTO commitments.
This post was written by Lisa Mueller.