Uzbekistan Ruling is A Positive Sign for IP Rights
A ruling announced by The Uzbekistan Antimonopoly Committee is good news for holders of intellectual property, especially international food chains McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Burger King due to enter the market this year. The judgement ordered a local beverage producer to change their trademark, because it was too similar to that of Coca-Cola.
For owners of trademarks and other intellectual property, this is a bit of reassurance that the Uzbek government will enforce IP protections and hold violators accountable. While Uzbekistan has long been a hotbed for IP violations such as “King Burger” restaurants and variations of the McDonalds brand, this ruling may signal a new direction for the country.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev established the Antimonopoly Committee in early 2019 in order to address these issues in the country. Recently after forming, the Committee ordered a local drug company to stop production of a lookalike drug after receiving complaints from companies in Ukraine and India.
Counterfeit products are both misleading and dangerous to consumers. When lower quality products are allowed to use deceptive packaging in order to appear authentic, consumers may not get the value that they are paying for. If they are unaware that the product is a fake, they may no longer trust the brand, because the counterfeit product was faulty or poorly made. Counterfeit medicines have shown to be not only ineffective at what they are marketed to address, but dangerous to the health of those that use them.
The inability to protect brand names is what motivated one of the very first IP enforcement laws. In the U.K. the Trade Marks Registration Act of 1875 allowed Bass beer to prevent counterfeiters from using its famous red triangle mark. Once this was in place the company was able to franchise manufacturing and expand business operations throughout the country, confident that it could prosecute anyone that used its mark without permission.
It is quite telling that other multi-national companies are already on their way to do business in Uzbekistan since protecting IP has become a priority. Surely others are soon to follow.
The new focus on IP issues in Uzbekistan doesn’t just end with trademarks and branding. Earlier this year, the Uzbek parliament ratified the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Performances and Phonograms Treaty, as well as the WIPO Copyright Treaty. This sets the stage for lawmakers to focus on addressing illegal sharing of music and films, as well as illegal streaming of tv.
The Coca-Cola ruling and actions taken by the Uzbek government show that Uzbekistan is moving toward better enforcement of intellectual property rights. This is a welcome development for all parties, especially in-country entrepreneurs. As rights holders benefit so will consumers.
Photo Credit: Tashkent