A judge in Russia has ruled that the British cartoon series “Peppa Pig” can be freely copied in Russia without violating Russian copyright law.
As The Independent reported,
The popular British cartoon – featuring Peppa the pig, her family, and her friends – can now be copied by Russian businesses, without any threat of punishment for trademark infringement, after a court ruling in Russia.
Last fall, before Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, Entertainment One (eOne), which owns Peppa Pig, sued a Russian who had created his own version of the series characters.
eOne, which was bought by Hasbro for $3.8 billion in 2019, demanded a modest 40,000 rubles (about $500 at current exchange rates) as compensation for the infringement.
A judge in Kirov (600 miles from Moscow) dismissed the case due to the “unfriendly actions of the United States of America and affiliated foreign countries.”
Peppa Pig has fans around the world – including embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
After taking his young children to a Peppa Pig World theme park, he commented,
Who would have believed that a pig that looks like a hairdryer or possibly a Picasso-like hairdryer, a pig that was rejected by the BBC, would now be exported to 180 countries with theme parks both in America and China?
The invasion of Ukraine and the resulting sanctions against Russia have led to consequences for intellectual property rights.
As we discussed here, three whistleblowers from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have called for the closure of WIPO’s Russia office, claiming 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.
And as we discussed here, Russian tech workers are fleeing the country and Russia has announced that its businesses are now allowed to steal patents and other forms of intellectual property from anyone in “unfriendly” countries.
Many foreign companies have suspended operations in Russia because of the war.
For example, the Washington Post reported that Mcdonald’s said it would temporarily close its 850 restaurants in Russia.
This is significant since Mcdonald’s derives 9% of its revenues from restaurants in Russia and Ukraine.
The 900-seat Mcdonald’s in Moscow’s Pushkin Square was the largest in the world when it opened in 1990.
“We join the world in condemning aggression and violence, and praying for peace,” said McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski in a statement.
However, as Business Insider reports,
It’s still possible to pick up a Big Mac in Russia despite McDonald’s announcing this month it would temporarily close its doors there.
According to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti, a number of McDonald’s restaurants that are owned by franchisees remain open. While the vast majority of McDonald’s restaurants in Russia are company-operated, over 100 of its nearly 850 locations are run by franchisees.
In a statement to RIA Novosti, McDonald’s confirmed that some restaurants remain open in Russia, including at Moscow’s airports and railway stations.
As CBC reported,
According to the information posted by McDonald’s online, there were 847 McDonald’s in Russia at the end of 2021 and 84 percent of them were controlled by the company. That means 135 locations were independently operated.
Burger King also said that it has been unable to close all its restaurants in Russia because its franchisees refuse to comply.
David Shear, president of Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International, said
Any current attempt to enforce our contract would ultimately require the support of Russian authorities on the ground and we know that will not practically happen anytime soon.
As CBC reported,
Last week, Subway issued a statement that it was unable to shutter its 450 restaurants in the country because they are independently owned franchises, managed by an independent master franchisee.
Subway also said it was redirecting all corporate profits earned in Russia to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
As this situation makes clear, intellectual property rights are only valuable to the extent that courts will enforce them.
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