The long-awaited end judgment comes after years of heavy court battles. The case has been running since 2003, and debates whether the rights to use the world renowned vodka brand Stolichnaya belong to Russia or to Russian business man Yuri Shefler and his company Spirits International – based in Rotterdam – the Netherlands. Shefler alleges that he acquired the brand after a privatisation following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
An interlocutory judgment was rendered in 2006 by the Rotterdam district court and although favorable to the plaintiff - the Russian state company FKP Soyuzplodoimport, the latter could not yet rely on it as it was not an end judgment. Spirits International seized the opportunity to appeal to the interlocutory judgment, but the appeal was denied. Last year the Dutch Supreme Court dismissed Spirits’ complaints, after which the main proceedings resumed.
The end judgment in the main proceedings was rendered on Wednesday 25th of March. The Rotterdam district court ruled that, Spirits International should hand over the trademark rights to the Russian Federation or pay a penalty of EUR 100,000 plus an additional daily fine of EUR 50,000.
The ruling covers the Stolichnaya, Moskovskaya and Na Zdorovye brands, and also specifies that Spirits International is no longer allowed to say its vodka is "Russian" or produced in Russia, nor to sell Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya vodka in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The decision – which could still be appealed - sets a precedent for other cases pending worldwide.
The Russian Federation is represented by Joris van Manen and Laura Fresco.