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European IP offices cut ties with Russia over Ukraine invasion

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Pressure is mounting on global law firms to follow suit and suspend their Russia operations

The EPO suspended all cooperation with Russian patent office Rospatent and the Eurasian Patent Organisation (EAPO) yesterday, March 1, as the wider intellectual property sector protested the invasion of Ukraine.

A statement from the EPO confirmed that the decision, which will also apply to Belarus’s patent office the National Center of Intellectual Property, will be effective immediately.

EPO spokesperson Luis Berenguer told Managing IP that it had previously cooperated with Rospatent and EAPO on a “purely technical” basis, including the exchange of patent data and the use of common tools for classification, search and substantive examination.

Berenguer said there had been no cooperation activities with the Belarussian office prior to the announcement.

EPO member states will debate potential further measures at the next meeting of the organisation’s administrative council on March 22.

“As citizens of Europe, we stand in solidarity with all those suffering from the appalling violence in Ukraine and all refugees seeking safety in other countries,” an EPO statement said yesterday.

The EPO said it would be making a direct contribution to aid organisations, and offer staff the opportunity to do the same on a voluntary basis.

The UKIPO is also set to announce details of a support package for customers in Ukraine, with an update expected shortly.

CEO Tim Moss said: “The UK government’s position is clear, and like everyone in the UK we are appalled by Russia’s despicable actions and stand unequivocally behind Ukraine and its people.

“The UK’s economic sanctions against Russia include IP, and we are enforcing these sanctions robustly,” Moss added.

Expanding on these measures, a spokesperson for the UKIPO said the office was not accepting applications or payments from any individuals or businesses on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s sanctions list.

A spokesperson for the EUIPO told Managing IP that it was "currently assessing the situation and any measures or steps that the office may take are currently being evaluated".

Legal sector response

Elsewhere, Ukrainian patent lawyers last week urged international IP associations and law firms to cut ties with Russia over the invasion, which began last Thursday, February 24.

The letter, from the National Association of Patent Attorneys of Ukraine, calls on all IP organisations to suspend membership for Russian attorneys and ban them from events.

Attorneys have debated on social media whether organisations such as INTA should bar Russian attorneys.

Tatiana Kudrytska, partner at Aequo in Ukraine, commented on LinkedIn: “Exclude all members from Russia. Please.”

But other practitioners have questioned whether all Russian attorneys should be subject to sanctions for the actions of their government.

Tove Graulund, principal at Graulund Consulting in Copenhagen, commented: “INTA is not the Olympics, and the Russian members are not the same as the Russian leadership.”

Meanwhile, there is mounting pressure on law firms that have IP bases in Russia.

A spokesperson for Baker McKenzie, which has offices in Moscow and St Petersburg, told Managing IP that the firm was “reviewing and adjusting our Russia-related operations and client work to align with all applicable sanctions and comply with these fast-evolving laws”.

“We do not comment on the details of specific client relationships, but this will mean in some cases exiting relationships completely,” the spokesperson said.

The firm’s Moscow and St Petersburg offices remain open, the spokesperson confirmed.

A spokesperson for Rouse, when asked about the status of the company’s Russia practice, told Managing IP: “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. We are monitoring the situation closely and reviewing our position accordingly.”

Linklaters, which describes itself as one of the "most successful international law firms in Russia" and has a Moscow office, told Managing IP it condemned the invasion and was "appalled by the escalating violence".

A spokesperson for the firm said: "We’re actively monitoring the situation and working to ensure the safety and support of colleagues and their families. We’re also reviewing all of the firm’s Russia-related work.”

Managing IP has contacted other firms and service providers with operations in Russia, including Hogan Lovells, for comment.

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