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Russia considers new ‘counter-sanctions’ against America. Watch your back, Uncle Sam.

7 cards
  • What happened?
  • What’s the gist?
  • What do they want to ban?
  • What the heck is “the exhaustion of exclusive rights to trademarks”?
  • What’s the logic behind banning certain drugs?
  • How do the authorities justify all these measures?
  • When would this come into effect?

What happened?

Lawmakers in the State Duma introduced draft legislation offering the government a series of measures it can adopt as counter-sanctions against the United States and “other foreign states.” The bill is sponsored by Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin and the leaders of all the political parties with seats in the parliament, which means it will likely be adopted without delay.


What’s the gist?

Lawmakers have drawn up a list of various prohibitions the government can impose against the U.S. and other countries in response to their sanctions against Russia.


What do they want to ban?

Correction: an earlier version of this story mistakenly claimed that the legislation included language “allowing the ‘free’ use of foreign intellectual property.” This was in fact an erroneous claim by State Duma deputy Mikhail Emelyakov. Meduza apologizes for the error.

A lot of the prohibitions mentioned in the legislation are outlined only generally, and officials in the executive branch would be responsible for hammering out the specifics. For example, the clause about banning foreign pharmaceuticals doesn’t mean that the authorities would outlaw everything without exception — it would only apply to the imported medicines identified by the government. In addition to these potential prohibitions, lawmakers also want to give officials the chance to authorize the “exhaustion of exclusive rights to trademarks.”


What the heck is “the exhaustion of exclusive rights to trademarks”?

If a foreign company declines or refuses to supply its goods to the Russian market, the government can “waive” patent protections and “legalize” domestic production of those goods. Russia’s legal system would stop recognizing copyright claims on these products.

According to State Duma deputy Mikhail Emelyakov, thanks to this measure, “we will be able to produce domestically those products, if we have the technology, without the permission of the patent holders.” Natalia Volchkova, a scholar at Russia’s New Economic School, explained to Meduza that Elemyakov’s comments have nothing to do with the concept of the exhaustion of exclusive rights to trademarks. “This is simply a violation of intellectual property rights — it’s something altogether different. If they start manufacturing goods and stamping them with the brands, it’s in fact a crime,” Volchkova said.


What’s the logic behind banning certain drugs?

Good question. (“Good” in the sense that we’re not sure, either.) Clearly, lawmakers in the State Duma believe that pharmaceuticals are a product like the other imports, and they feel that banning their sale in Russia could harm the economies of hostile nations. The legislation states that the import restrictions wouldn’t affect medicines with equivalents manufactured in Russia or third-party countries.


How do the authorities justify all these measures?

First and foremost, these counter-sanctions were designed as a response to the U.S. Treasury Department’s decision in early April to “designate” seven Russian “oligarchs” and 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, and a state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its subsidiary. The draft law’s explanatory note argues that the bill would “stimulate the development and improvement of Russia’s domestic industrial markets and the country’s political standing on the world stage.” Deputies also point out that the new sanctions will help build ties with states that oppose U.S. policy toward Russia.


When would this come into effect?

That’s still unclear. The bill’s sponsors want it to enter force the moment President Putin signs it. Given that similar legislation is often adopted with blinding speed in Russia, it’s a good bet that it won’t be long before this document is the law of the land.

Text by Alexander Borzenko and Denis Dmitriev, translation by Kevin Rothrock