Lee Davies on sanctions and sanctuary

It has been more than a month since Russia commenced its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine and scenes of major conflict in Europe became a part of our lived experience rather than something confined to history books and films.

My thoughts are with those most affected by the conflict, the people of Ukraine, who have shown the most incredible spirit and resolve in the face of the horror of 21st Century warfare.

We are 1,500 miles from the conflict, but it feels as if it is on our doorstep, such is the power of the media and, in particular, the social channels where we consume live commentary on public affairs. It also feels on our doorstep as we navigate the consequences of the sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus, which bite on intellectual property, and we see the arrival of Ukrainian people fleeing war and seeking a safe haven in the UK.

On the first matter, the consequences arising out of the UK Government’s sanctions regime on Russian and Belarusian individuals and organisations, we are trying to help our members make the right decisions and choices in their day-to-day business relationships. It is not easy. The advice that is available from government is sometimes difficult to find and hard to interpret, so we have been doing all we can to help our members determine if an individual or organisation is on a sanctions list.

The first port of call should be the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), which publishes a searchable database of all individuals and entities listed under the various sanctions regimes put in place by the UK Government. There is a ‘fuzzy search’ facility, which means that the database will return results if names are misspelt or incomplete. PDF versions of the sanctions lists for Russia and Belarus are updated regularly. We are in weekly contact with the UK Intellectual Property Office and our news page on the sanctions regime is frequently updated as we hear more from the IPO on how sanctions impact on IP rights.

Perhaps the most frequent question I am asked is about clients who are not on the sanctions list and the moral or ethical considerations when taking on a new client with business interests in Russia or Belarus or deciding whether to continue to act for clients where there are Russian or Belarusian ties. It is difficult to offer a perspective on the moral question as this must come down to individual conscience and how comfortable an attorney or firm is with the business relationship. On the ethical question, the IPO has offered advice on the areas an attorney should consider if thinking about withdrawing their services as representative, or as an address for service in the UK. You will find these on our news page. We are talking with our colleagues at IPReg about the regulatory considerations and hope to be able to publish something very soon.

On the second matter, the human price of the conflict, it was brilliant to see the response from our members who have signed up to the Homes for Ukraine programme. Thank you for your generosity and for letting us know. We are in contact with Ukrainian IP organisations and individual Ukrainian IP professionals fleeing the conflict and have begun linking them and their families with potential hosts in the UK. We have also taken the decision to allow IP professionals who are suitably qualified to have temporary membership of CIPA, which may enable the Benevolent Association to offer assistance.

Lee Davies

Date Published: 1 April 2022

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