Updated – UK government’s sanctions regime relating to Russia

What is the impact on IP firms?

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK government announced a package of sanctions which include freezing assets from Russia’s major banks and some export markets. For the latest on UK sanctions relating to Russia, please see this guidance available at gov.uk.

On 30 September 2022 the government updated its guidance on sanctions following the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia by Russia. The new guidance includes the following statements:

…under new sanctions Russia will lose access to major western services that Russia depends on, including: IT consultancy, architectural services, engineering services, and transactional legal advisory services for  certain commercial activities.’

Russia is highly dependent on Western countries for legal services with 85% of all legal services being imported from G7 countries – given London is an international legal centre, the UK accounts for 59% of these imports. The new legal advisory measures will cover certain commercial and transactional services and hamper Russia’s businesses’ ability to operate internationally.’

See: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/sanctions-in-response-to-putins-illegal-annexation-of-ukrainian-regions

Members are asking if transactional legal advisory services include intellectual property transactions and if the enhanced sanctions apply to all businesses and individuals in Russia, not just those on the sanctions list.

CIPA is working with IPReg to obtain clarification from the Ministry of Justice. We will provide further advice to members when the position becomes clearer.

UPDATE 9 November, 2022 – IPReg posted the following on its website: “The legal press is reporting that OFSI stated recently that: ‘the details of this were currently being consulted on and would be announced later this year or early next’. We will publish more information here when it becomes available.”

Solicitors Regulation Authority

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued guidance on complying with the UK Sanctions Regime. The guidance will help you to understand your obligations and how to comply with them.

Legal Fees General Licence

The government has issued a new Legal Fees General Licence allowing a UK legal firm or Counsel to immediately receive and make payments to or on behalf of a Designated Person. This was not previously permitted without a specific licence from the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI). General Licence INT/2022/2252300 has been issued due to the high amount of licenses being requested to date.

More information is available on the IPReg website.

Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) searchable database

Please use this link to go direct to OFSI’s searchable database. The database has a ‘fuzzy search’ function, which will find matches even when the search terms are only partially entered or incorrectly spelled. You can select Russia or Belarus under the ‘regime’ tab. The ‘group type’ tab will enable you to search for individuals or organisations. OFSI can be contacted at [email protected].

The consolidated list of Russian individuals and entities subject to financial sanctions is here. Use Ctrl F to search the document.

The consolidated list of Belarusian individuals and entities subject to financial sanctions is here. Ctrl F to search.

CIPA will continue to monitor the Government’s response to the situation in Ukraine and will liaise with contacts in the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Department of International Trade (DIT). The IPO’s statement on the conflict is here.

Making payments to Russian firms

The Central Bank of the Russian Federation is subject to UK sanctions. It is widely understood that the Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Rospatent, banks at the Central Bank.  Many members have therefore asked the question:

If I pay a non-sanctioned Russian agent, or organisation, in order to file/maintain rights and that payment ends up with the Central Bank, am I in breach of sanctions?

Following meetings with government officials, it is our understanding that fees can be paid to Rospatent without fear of breaching sanctions, unless they are being paid by, or on behalf of, someone on the UK sanctions list. This is because the Central Bank of the Russian Federation has been designated in a different way to commercial banks. The relevant regulation prohibits the provision of financial services, not the filing and maintaining of IP rights.

Members have also enquired about the status of UniCredit, in relation to the filing of Eurasion patent applications. It is CIPA’s understanding that UniCredit is not subject to UK sanctions.

Members should not consider the above guidance as legal advice and should make their own checks regarding sanctioned individuals and organisations using the links above.

FAQ: agents withdrawing their services as representative / address for service 

In response to members’ questions about continuing to act as representatives or providing an address for service, the IPO produced the following FAQs:

Q – Is there a formal process I must follow to remove myself as representative and/or address for service?

  • There is no formal process or dedicated form, simply write in and request to be removed from our registers as representative and/or address for service, clearly identifying the case(s) to which this applies.

Q – Are there any fees involved in removing a representative?

  • There are no fees involved in removing or changing representatives across our rights.

Q – Do I need to appoint someone else, so I can be removed from the register?

  • No, you do not need to appoint another agent or individual.

Q – What ramifications are there for the case, where I remove myself as representative or address for service?

  • If the case is still undergoing the application process and you were the address for service, the address for service will revert to the applicant, then
    • If the applicant doesn’t meet our address for service requirements, they will have two months for patents or one month for trade marks to appoint an address for service in the UK (including the Isle of Man), Gibraltar or the Channel Isles – otherwise the application will be withdrawn
  • If the right is registered/granted, you were the address for service and there are no further proceedings, the right may just sit on the respective registers until the next renewal.
  • If you wish to act as representative or address for service on the case(s) in future, we may require the usual evidence to establish the right to do so.

Advice from IPReg

IPReg has published advice here.

What support is there from government?

On 17 March 2022, the UK government held a webinar briefing on UK sanctions relating to Russia. A recording of this webinar is available for a short time here.

The government has asked the Export Support Service (ESS) to support business who have questions or concerns. If you have a question about trading with Ukraine or Russia, use the dedicated online service or call 0300 303 8955.

For those businesses with British citizens working or living in Russia and Ukraine, please contact the British embassy in Moscow or the British embassy in Kyiv.

Position in Ukraine

The Ukrainian Intellectual Property Institute (UIPI) published a statement on 1 March to confirm that it remains operational.

With martial law being declared in Ukraine on 24 February, all business-related deadlines were suspended for 30 days from this date.

What is the position of the EPO?

The EPO has frozen its co-operation activities with the national patent offices of the Federation of Russia and of Belarus, and put on hold its co-operation activities with the Eurasian Patent Organisation. See EPO news. At the EPO’s Administrative Council meeting on 22 March, the Office activated the “EPN Responsive Network” for all members of the European Patent Network (EPN) in order to exchange information and coordinate actions in an open and timely manner. More here.

On 19 May, the Ukrainian Intellectual Property Institute (Ukrpatent) reported that a Declaration of Intent had been signed by the President of the EPO, António Campinos, and the Director General of Ukrpatent, Andrew Kudin. Ukrpatent reported that the EPO had offered an expanded package of support and cooperation measures.

What is the position in the USA?

The US Department of the Treasury issued a General Licence on 5 May 2022 authorising transactions in connection with the filing and prosecution of patent applications, or the maintenance of issued patents, in Russia. The licence is here. The UK has taken a different approach to the US and the UK sanctions regime continues to apply to intellectual property.

Members should contact [email protected] if they have any updates or news which could assist fellow members.

Date published: 2 March 2022

Last updated: 29 March 2023

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