Vodka brands will become Benelux properties and may be rented out

Always wanted to have such a famous Russian vodka brand as Stolichnaya or Moskovskaya? That is now possible, because on december 6, a series of vodka trademarks will come under the hammer at Equilibristen bailiffs in the Hague.

This is the result of a protracted legal battle. A number of former shareholders of the in 2006 (!) defunct Russian state oil company Yukos wants compensation for the loss they suffered due to the bankruptcy of the company. Yukos collapsed because top executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky fell out of favor at the Kremlin and the State plucked the company bare. At the peak of its existence, it had a market value of $33 billion.

The injured shareholders went to the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague. In 2014, the arbitral tribunal found $50 billion in damages appropriate. Against that ruling, the Kremlin was shot in the face by a regular Dutch judge. The dispute that arose there has still not been resolved, the compensation has amounted to $58 billion, but the compensation scheme will come on the advice of the country’s highest judge, the Supreme Court. It’s only a matter of time.

The vodka brands are still owned by Soyuzplodoimport, a Moscow-based company. Soyuzplodoimport actually fall under the Russian state laws. And so the trademark rights, at least in the Benelux, are also legally under the Kremlin, The Hague court ruled this summer. “The trademark rights can thus be used to collect compensation money,” says the Financieele Dagblad. How? By auctioning the trademark rights, so that the buyer can rent them out or use them himself in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.