March 22, 2022

The Current State of Intellectual Property in Russia

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Russia effectively legalised patent theft last week, declaring that the unauthorized use of patents belonging to businesses affiliated with the UK, US, EU, Australia, Ukraine and 17 other “unfriendly nations” will not lead to the affected businesses being compensated. 

In addition to this decree, officials in Russia have also hinted to the possibility of removing restrictions on trade marks, according to their state media, leaving large multi-national brands with no legal recourse should copycat businesses utilize the brand as their own. 

Opportunists in Russia have already looked to capitalise on this situation, with trade mark applications being filed for businesses that strike a significant resemblance to marks belonging to Ikea, Instagram, McDonald's, and Starbucks. Despite the substantial resemblance these marks have to huge multi-national brands, there is very little these companies can currently do to protect their brands, as the Russian courts will be stacked against them and its unlikely that they will be able to find local counsel due to safety concerns. 

This leaves officials of companies operating in Russia in a very difficult scenario, where on one hand, they can protect corporate assets by continuing to operate in Russia (although this likely comes with significant moral and political backlash for the business); or they can halt operations and run the risk of their brand being infringed or diluted, as seen with the Peppa Pig trade mark ruling. 

Last week, a Russian court ruled that the Peppa Pig character’s trade marks could be used by Russian businesses without punishment, after Entertainment One - who own the rights to the children's series - had taken legal action against a Russian man who had drawn his own versions of Peppa Pig. When providing the ruling the judge cited the "unfriendly actions of the United States of America and affiliated foreign countries", illustrating how brands from these countries have no immediate recourse to protect against their stolen IP. 

In the past, there may have been other avenues available to resolve such cases, and in theory, the World Trade Organization could settle any IP disputes between the U.S. and Russia under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. However, even though both countries have signed onto the treaty, this route is unlikely to prove effective due to the suspension of diplomatic relations, with the US already stating that “the normal rules for our international commercial interaction are over.” 

So what does this mean for domains? 

There are a number of Russian domain extensions that may see a rise is squatting and other forms on unlawful use considering the Russian Governments approach to IP enforcement. The domain extentions .рус, .moscow and .москва (Cyrillic for Moscow) fall within the UDRP, however .ru, com.ru, .su (Soviet Union – believe it or not!) and .рф (.RU in Cyrillic) are subject to local Russian laws. 

At the best of times, local Russian domain disputes can take time and substantial amounts of money to resolve. 

If you are able to keep your Russian domains, do so. Do not let them expire! If you are able to secure additional domains to reduce your exposure, register those key domains. Our suggestion is subject to the sanctions applicable in various countries so make sure that the appropriate due diligence is conducted. 

March 11, 2022

Beware of Chinese Scam Emails!

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Over the years, a number of our clients have reported that they have received emails from Chinese domain name vendors, stating that a third party intends to register their trade mark as a domain name under various Top Level Domain (TLD) extensions. 

This form of email communication is a scam, with its intended purpose to frighten trade mark owners into registering domain names with the company that originated the email, at an inflated price. We first wrote about this scam in August 2008 and still to this day, we are seeing this type of scam being reported.

We insert below a sample of the type of email that is received by brands, although we have replaced the trade mark with 'yourbrandname'.

 

Dear CEO,

We are a domain name registration service company in asia, which mainly deal with international company's in Asia. We have something important we need to confirm with your company.

On Feb 22, 2022, we received an application formally. A company named "Tambora International Holdings Ltd" wanted to register the following Domain names:

  • yourbrandname.asia
  • yourbrandname.cc
  • yourbrandname.cn
  • yourbrandname.com.hk

After our initial examination, we found that the keywords and domain names applied for registration are the same as your company's name and trademark. These days we are dealing with it. If you do not know this company, we doubt that they have other aims to buy these domain names. Now we have not finished the registration of Tambora company yet, in order to deal with this issue better, Please contact us by telephone or email as soon as possible.

Best Regards,

Sherry
Auditing Department

 

The domain names mentioned in these scams are usually registered on a “first come, first served” basis so there is no reason to report such a risk to a trade mark owner.

If the trade mark owner responds the scammer usually registers the domain names, under its own name, as the response indicates that the domain names are of value and have the potential to generate income for the scammer. The trade mark owner is then in a predicament, "Do they buy a domain name back or institute legal action for a domain name they never wanted?"
 

If you receive such an email it is advisable to ignore it. If the email includes a domain name that you may want to secure, always register it through your own provider or at www.lexsynergy.com.

March 07, 2022

Worldwide CyberWarfare

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The CyberWar to Date

From the onset of war in Ukraine, it was apparent that Russia’s ‘boots on the ground’ approach would be supplemented by a parallel cyber-attack on Ukraine’s digital infrastructure.

Despite Russia’s initial offensive, Ukraine has been able to retaliate through the support of its own cyber activities and the hacktivist collective group Anonymous, with the group declaring war on Russia and calling upon its global following of cyber soldiers to target Russian systems.

Capture

This call to online arms, seems to have paid dividends for Ukraine, as last week Anonymous took credit for hacks on several Russian government websites and media outlets, with Russian TV channels being made to play Ukrainian music and show uncensored news coverage of the conflict in Ukraine. 

Capture 1

Additionally, the group has been able to access and publish Russian Department of Defence data, emails from Belarusian weapons manufacturer Tetraedr and data from the Russian Nuclear Institute. Moreover, Anonymous have warned that if tensions continue to worsen in Ukraine, they will take industrial control systems hostage.

The group reported the first of these more significant attacks on Friday when Network Battalion 65, a group affiliated with Anonymous, posted a tweet claiming to show server information for the Russian space agency. The group tweeted that they had downloaded and deleted confidential files related to the space agency's satellite imaging and Vehicle Monitoring System. However, these claims were quickly dismissed by the Russian government, with Director General Dmitry Rogozin adding that Russia would treat any hacking of its satellites as a justification for war. 

Capture 2

Implications for the World

On the surface, this may appear to be cyber warfare between the Ukraine and Russia, but it is quickly becoming an online battle between Russia and the western allies.

Reports today suggest that Russia has begun a cyberwar against the U.S. in retaliation to recent sanctions targeting the Russian banking system and other major industries. This sentiment is echoed in the UK with Jeremy Fleming, GCHQ Director, reportedly taking steps to brief UK businesses on strengthening their cyber security efforts in light of an ongoing cyberwar.

The U.S also appears to have prepared for this outcome, with The New York Post reporting, that the President’s administration had been working with bank and other major industry executives to prepare for cyber-attacks.

Cyberattacks on major banks and businesses are not a new occurrence, with these organisations being constantly under threat from cybercriminals, but this online warfare is likely to intensify, affecting a far wider range of organisations. Therefore, it is vital that businesses of all sizes are taking measures to ensure the security of their online presence and the data that they hold.

 

Preventive Measures

The attacks already carried out by the Ukraine, Russia, and Anonymous illustrate how even the most sophisticated of security systems can be infiltrated to create significant damage. However, it is still crucial that preventive measures are undertaken to make infiltrating your security system significantly more difficult for cyber attackers and ensure that as a business you are prepared to deal with such attacks.

 

1.      Make sure your domains are in your domain – Undertake a domain audit to ensure that all domains related to your brand are under the companies control and are centralized with one provider, ensuring that any issues that arise can be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

2.      Conduct a cyber security audit – Conduct a general audit on your security infrastructure to assess how well your current system would hold up against a cyber-attack.

3.      Create a cyber security plan – Create a clear plan that can be used should your organization face a cyber-attack, enabling you to undertake quick and effective steps to secure your business and get back to standard practise as quickly as possible.

4.      Conduct cyber security staff training – Cyber attackers will look for any loophole in your online security to enable them to undertake an attack. This could mean targeting employees as well as the business. Therefore, it is critical that all employees are trained to stay safe online and what to do should they believe they have been targeted.

 

Should you want any help or advice about protecting your brand online, please reach out to our brand protection team.

 

Lexsynergy stands with the people of Ukraine.