Peppa pig and the unenforceable IP rights!

Any given episode of Peppa Pig is a gold mine of wisdom, from how to effectively apologise: “I’m sorry I said you cheated, even though you did cheat.” To the importance of being humble: “It’s hard to choose one talent; I am good at lots of things.”

However, no Peppa-ism is more relevant to the world of intellectual property than the following: “If you are jumping up and down in muddy puddles, you MUST wear your boots.”

It’s a simple enough idea. Jumping in mud is messy, so wear boots to protect yourself. Similarly, the world of business is messy – which is why we have intellectual property protections. However, a recent decision of a provincial arbitration court in Russia indicates that the boots are off!

Wait, what happened?

Hasbro International acquired the Peppa Pig TV series (and associated merchandising rights) in a $3.8 billion deal in 2019, and Peppa Pig has been exported to 180 countries, as well as having her own theme parks in the UK, USA, and China (which incidentally is a favourite of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson).

Last year, Hasbro’s company behind Peppa Pig, Entertainment One, sued Russian entrepreneur Ivan Kozhevinov for creating his versions of Peppa Pig, Daddy Pig, and other characters from the beloved TV show. Entertainment One demanded Kozhevinov pay compensation to the tune of 40,000 roubles (less than AUD$500) for breach of their copyright.

IP rights in Russia

Over the weekend, Judge Andrei Slavinsky dismissed the case, stating trade marks from “unfriendly” countries were fair game, and breaches would attract no punishment from the Court.

In his ruling, Judge Slavinsky made it known that he was aware of the political and economic sanctions the world has placed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. He stated that “unfriendly actions of the United States of America and affiliated foreign countries” had influenced his decision.

Indeed, according to the Judge, it was those very sanctions that allowed the Court to refuse Entertainment One’s infringement claims.

The Kremlin then reinforced the ruling with its own decree, stating the use of patented inventions, industrial designs, and utility models from “unfriendly countries” such as the USA and UK can be used without permission or compensation.

The decree will likely trigger more widespread misuse of trade marks and other intellectual property rights owned by businesses and individuals, resident in “unfriendly” territories, including all 27 European Union nations, , the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland.

What can I do to protect my IP?

While enforcing or taking steps to protect IP within Russia is problematic, brand and IP owners need to look to contain the infringements to Russia.

Brand and IP owners should:

  • prepare themselves for a new reality where infringements go unpunished in further jurisdictions;
  • consider alternate ways to protect their intellectual property from infringement; and
  • keep a watch on counterfeit goods being imported from Russia or IP being uploaded or made available on websites hosted outside uncontrollable jurisdictions.
  • There are a range of steps that can be taken to prevent infringing IP or goods that embody them from being imported or sold in your jurisdiction. Internet take-down notices, customs watches and “normal” cease and desist and destruction orders may be available within jurisdictions where IP rights are still enforced,

  • If you’d like help with jumping in muddy puddles, watch Peppa Pig. But if you’d like assistance setting up customs watches to reduce the importation into Australia of counterfeit goods, or advice on practical commercial solutions for intellectual property enforcement, contact Macpherson Kelley’s IP Team.