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Intellectual Property in Wartime

IP weaponized
As Russia batters Ukraine;
Tech workers fleeing

As we wrote in this recent blog, whistleblowers from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have called for the closure of WIPO’s Russia office in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

They’re concerned that

WIPO activities may have inadvertently assisted Russia in developing and commercializing military equipment that is now being used against Ukraine and to kill innocent civilians.

As the war continues, additional intellectual property (IP) issues have arisen.

June 23, 2022, is the last day that a US business with patents or patent applications in Russia may pay anything to the Russian patent office (Rospatent).

Rospatent isn’t a sanctioned entity, but there will soon be no legal way to pay it patent-related fees.

Rospatent accepts payments from patent applicants via the Central Bank of the Russian Federation – which IS a sanctioned entity.

After sanctions against Russia were announced in late February, certain transactions were permitted during a wind-down period granted by the US Department of Treasury. This period ends at 12:01 AM EDT on June 24.

Anyone wishing to file a patent in Russia must make sure that the payment is processed before that deadline.

It’s illegal to try to evade the sanctions by making the payment via a law firm or entity in another country.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that effective March 11 it will no longer grant requests to participate in the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) at the USPTO when such requests are based on work performed by Rospatent as an Office of Earlier Examination under the GPPH.

As the USPTO explains,

The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) speeds up the examination process for corresponding applications filed in participating intellectual property offices.

Under PPH, participating patent offices have agreed that when an applicant receives a final ruling from a first patent office that at least one claim is allowed, the applicant may request fast track examination of the corresponding claim(s) in a corresponding patent application that is pending in a second patent office. PPH leverages fast-track examination procedures already in place among participating patent offices to allow applicants to reach the final disposition of a patent application more quickly and efficiently than standard examination processing.

Under Russian law, patent applications inventions conceived in Russia must be filed in Russia – regardless of the nationality of the inventor. If a patent application for an invention by someone in Russia isn’t filed in Russia, and the application is determined to include broadly defined “state secret” information, the inventor can face criminal penalties.

The IP rights situation may be further complicated because so many members of Russia’s inventors in the technology sector are fleeing the country.

As Wired reported,

According to RAEK, a Russian technology trade group, between 50,000 and 70,000 tech workers have already fled Russia, and 70,000 to 100,000 more could leave in April. With flights to the West canceled, they have wended their way to countries where Russian citizens can still travel visa-free.

Russia’s loss is likely to benefit other countries where tech experts are in great demand. As Wired notes,

Konstantin Vinogradov, the London-based Russian-born principal of global VC firm Runa Capital, has teamed up with other industry figures to create a “talent pool” website that helps anti-war technology workers from Russia, Belarus (which is supporting Moscow’s military maneuvers), and Ukraine find suitable jobs elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Russia has announced that its businesses are now allowed to steal patents from anyone in “unfriendly” countries – which includes most of the world at this point.

According to the Washington Post,

The patent decree and any further lifting of intellectual property protections could affect Western investment in Russia well beyond any de-escalation of the war in Ukraine…. Firms that already saw risks in Russian business would have more reason to worry.

Just like the haiku above, we like to keep our posts short and sweet. Hopefully, you found this bite-sized information helpful. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us here.

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