New categories of trademark rights holders
The nature of trademarks is directly tied to commercial objectives: they serve to individualise goods, work and services. For a long time, the Russian regulatory framework has only allowed commercial entities, i.e., legal entities and individual entrepreneurs, to be rights holders of trademarks.
The Federal Law extends the range of holders of exclusive rights in trademarks. Once the new rules take effect, any person, including private citizens, will be able to become a rights holder. In terms of practical implementation, however, there are certain points which may need to be considered.
A citizen does not have to be engaged in particular activities or have any special status in order to register a trademark. At the same time, it remains illegal to carry on entrepreneurial activities without registration. This means that an individual planning to use a trademark in his activities must either have the status of an individual entrepreneur or carry on specialised activities that do not require that status — for example, he may be self-employed or work as a lawyer or a notary. Also, if an individual registers a trademark without intending to use it in any activities or fails to use a registered trademark, legal protection of the mark may be terminated early by reason of non-use.
Nevertheless, the change in the law certainly has a number of positive implications. Firstly, whereas previously a trademark was deprived of legal protection if the holder lost the status of an individual entrepreneur, this will no longer be the case once the amendments come into force: legal protection will end only when the rights holder dies. Secondly, the amendments mean that a person who has inherited exclusive rights in a trademark and does not have the status of an individual entrepreneur will not be obliged to obtain that status or alienate the exclusive rights in the trademark within a year of the succession date.