SPI loses Stoli Benelux trademark appeal

A Dutch appeals court has upheld a 2015 ruling that gives the rights to sell the famous Russian vodka brand Stolichnaya in Benelux to a Russian state-owned company.

Henceforth SPI has no right to the Stolichnaya brand in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and would have to repay all profit it has made from its Stolichnaya, Moskovskaya and Na Zdorovye brands in Benelux since 1999.

The development is the latest step in a 15-year-long legal wrangle over the brand between Spirits International (SPI) and Soyuzplodoimport which both claim to be the owners of the Stolichnaya trademark.

SPI maintains that its owner and founder, Yuri Shefler, acquired the brand from Soyuzplodoimport in the 1990s when it (briefly) became a private company following the fall of the Soviet Union, while the (now state-owned once again) Soyuzplodoimport counters it was illegally privatised and Shefler had no right to buy the brand.

In 2001, when Shefler left Russia, Soyuzplodoimport won back the trademark rights to the brand in Russia and shortly afterwards launched a legal challenge to SPI’s claim in other international markets.

In 2015 a Dutch court ruled SPI had to cede its trademark rights to the brand across the Low Countries – the ruling upheld this month – but continues to hold it in key markets such as the US, UK and Australia.

Legal challenges are currently being mounted by Soyuzplodoimport in other markets although several suits in the US, Brazil and Australia went in SPI’s favour during 2016 and 2017.

In a statement SPI said it was “disappointed” with the ruling and would: “Continue to pursue all available legal remedies in the Netherlands, including the appeal of this decision to the Dutch Supreme Court.”

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