Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Brand Name No Guarantee in Russia ; the Government Cracks Down on Counterfeiters, Armed with a New Trademark Law Effective This Month

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Brand Name No Guarantee in Russia ; the Government Cracks Down on Counterfeiters, Armed with a New Trademark Law Effective This Month

Article excerpt

At Kuznetsky Most, one of dozens of outdoor pirate markets in Moscow, a copy of Microsoft's Windows XP costs just $3. A CD containing everything the Beatles ever recorded, or the latest Madonna album, or just about any other music you want, costs $2.50. The new Harry Potter film? About $5.

"This is big business. No one is going to stop it anytime soon," says Igor, a Kuznetsky Most software vendor who declined to give his last name. "It's not piracy. These products are made in legitimate factories. I guarantee the quality of every disk I sell. The police keep order here and never bother us."

At least half the products sold in Russia - items as basic as furniture, engine lubricant, cosmetics, and coffee - are either counterfeit or contraband, experts say.

But that may be about to change. Armed with a tough new trademark law, effective Jan. 1, Russian authorities say they are going to crack down hard on the estimated $20 billion a year theft of intellectual property by Russian bootleggers and black marketeers. In a recent interview with RTR state television, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who heads the effort to stamp out piracy, warned that the problem is a key obstacle to Russia's hopes of joining the World Trade Organization. "How can we ask foreign investors to put their money into a country where phony goods are sold along with chewing gum across every shop counter?" Mr. Kasyanov asked. The scale of Russia's black market, he said, even threatens to overwhelm the Kremlin's agenda for broader economic reforms.

Experts say Russia is already the world's second-biggest source of pirated goods, after China. But while China has made major progress in guaranteeing investor rights, Russian economic practice remains largely lawless. And despite the Russian government's declaration of war, analysts say bootleg manufacturing is growing by leaps and bounds. "Basically, everything is fake. You can hardly find a product that isn't," says Alexander Sheremekh, vice president of the Washington-based Coalition for Protection of Intellectual Property, a private antipiracy group.

Illicit goods can even be dangerous. Maria Sokolova, a Moscow homemaker, bought a well-known brand of instant coffee from a kiosk last week. The can contained "only some kind of brown sand, certainly not coffee," she says, and the shop owner refused to acknowledge the fraud or replace the product. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.