Russia gets the upper hand in decades-long fight for Stolichnaya brand

Russia gets the upper hand in decades-long fight for Stolichnaya brand
Yuri Shefler loses control over Stolichnaya vodka brand in Austria
By bne IntelliNews September 11, 2018

The court of appeal of Austrian Linz took the side of Moscow in the decades-long fight for ownership of the Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya vodka brands, confirming the right of Soyuzplodoimport over the use of the brands on Austrian territory, the state-owned enterprise announced as reported by RBC on September 10.

Since early 2000s Soyuzplodoimport has been fighting with SPI Group controlled by Russian tycoon Yuri Shefler, who had argued that he purchased rights to the brands for $285,000 in 1997 after the breakup of the former Soviet Union.

Previously in January a Dutch court upheld a ruling to give the vodka names back to the state-owned enterprise, with the ruling only applying to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg leaving the ownership of the brand with SPI Group's Spirits International in other countries in Europe.

The Austrian court also awarded damages to Soyuzplodoimport for the use of the brands by SPI on its territory, with Austrian market being second-largest for “Stoli” vodka in Europe. The decision is also un-appealable in the High Court.

Russia previously contested the use of brands in about 20 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

Shefler, whose net worth is estimated at more than $2bn by Forbes Magazine, left Russia in 2001 after the country's Supreme Court stripped him of rights to the brand within the Russian Federation. SPI Group's major factories are located in Latvia. Tuesday's rulings forbid SPI from describing vodkas and other drinks it sells as "Russian" or "Imported from Russia".