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Managing IP in conflict zones, an IP lawyer weighs in

Published on 16 Apr 2024 | 2 minute read

Geopolitical tensions have risen in recent years in several countries, including Russia, Azerbaijan and Lebanon. Earlier this year, Azerbaijani armed forces reportedly opened fire on Armenian positions close to the border hamlet of Nerkin Hand, according to the Defense Ministry of Armenia. The recent fighting, which lasted for four hours, claimed the lives of four Armenian soldiers and injured another. This conflict has resulted in local criminals infringing branded IPs, such as the emergence of Stars Coffee and Cool Cola in Russia, which have impersonated Starbucks and Coca-Cola following its corporate exit.  

Given such cases, how can businesses manage their IP in conflict zones? Adelaide Yu, a principal at Rouse in Hong Kong, said there are two questions all businesses operating in conflict zones must ask themselves. “Is there a legal framework for IP prosecution and enforcement? If so, are there effective institutions in place to prosecute and enforce the protection of IP? This varies from country to country and can shape your IP strategy,” she said. “In countries like Kosovo, for example, there was no basic legal framework following the war in the late ‘90s. This resulted in a complete rebuild of the operating judicial system and minimal guidance of the new rule of law. Therefore, the first step is to always establish what the contemporary rule of law is in the conflict zone.” 

She added that should there be a legal framework and an appropriate institution to enforce these rights. “This can be a challenge in conflict zones, as justice institutions tend to become absent from much of the country. In other countries, there might be judicial systems and institutions, but they’re deeply influenced by corruption, elite manipulation, ethnic dominance or simply have insufficient funds to proceed fairly,” she said. “Once the legal frameworks and institutions available are identified, then companies can strategize and work within these mechanisms to protect their intellectual property rights amidst geopolitical tensions.”   

In situations where local criminals or entities impersonate well-known brands, she said businesses can take proactive measures to address such IP infringements in conflict zones. One of the ways to do this is by conducting an in-depth investigation, which can help determine the main parties involved in the infringement. “It can also aid in establishing where the infringing goods are coming from,” she said. 

She added: “If the source of the infringing products is located, and it is in a jurisdiction where the brand owner has established its IP rights (and is not in a conflict zone), the brand owner may consider taking action in that jurisdiction. Depending on the safety and security situation in that area, cease and desist (C&D) letters are an effective tool in combatting infringements. Many infringers desist from infringing activities (or infringe on other brand owners IP rights) if they become aware that a brand owner is actively enforcing its rights.”


This article was originally published in Asia IP:

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