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<nettime> Moscow Times: Company Claims Patent on the Bottle


                          Saturday, June 24, 2000
                    Company Claims Patent on the Bottle 
                              By Lyuba Pronina
                                Staff Writer
   A company has managed to take out patents on all glass, plastic and
   metal containers and is demanding that breweries throughout the
   country pay it 0.5 percent royalties on every bottle or can they sell.
   Intellect, a company specializing in legal advice on industrial
   property rights, secured the patents from state patent agency
   Rospatent and has sent letters to breweries offering a license so
   brewers can continue to use bottles and cans.
   Interfax reported Vladimir Shishin, head of the Brewers Association,
   as saying Friday that Intellect's demands could cost beer makers 200
   million rubles ($7 million) a year.
   If Intellect was to succeed with other bottlers, it would receive huge
   income from the sales of the 1.8 billion to 2 billion bottles that,
   according to the Glass Research Institute, are produced in Russia each
   year. The country has about 250 breweries and 500 non-alcoholic
   beverage plants, the Brewers Association says.
   The Encyclopedia Britannica says the Egyptians were producing glass
   bottles before 1500 B.C. But that didn't stop Rospatent from issuing
   the patent Oct. 20. It is now in the middle of an internal
   investigation into whether it should have done so.
   "If there was a mistake, then those responsible for it will bear the
   consequences," said Alexander Ashikhin, director of the Federal
   Institute of Industrial Property, a division of Rospatent which
   advises the agency on whether patent applications should be approved.
   "Someone might even be fired."
   The institute, whose experts are retracing the steps taken to issue
   the patent, is wary of saying the patent was issued in error. It said
   it has ruled out the possibility that bribes were paid to get the
   Critics say the patent application was written in complicated language
   and pertained to a feature inherent in all bottles.
   Intellect general director Vladimir Zaichenko said the company was set
   up 1 1/2 years ago and has received hundreds of patents f on screws,
   ball bearings, flasks, cisterns, ampules, railroad lines and other
   everyday items.
   It applied for the patents on bottles and cans on behalf of a client,
   Technopolis, Zaichenko said. He refused to provide information on
   Technopolis, saying only that "among other fields it's involved in
   Zaichenko said inventors are not responsible for knowing whether their
   inventions already exist. "If a patent is issued, then Rospatent
   recognizes the idea as being original," he said. "They are the
   Representatives of Moscow's breweries, among them such heavyweights
   such as Ochakovo, Ostankino and Badayevsky, met this week to work out
   a strategy to fight Intellect's claims.
   The outraged breweries are planning to file an appeal to Rospatent's
   appeal chamber challenging Intellect's bid to make them pay royalties
   for items they have been using for decades. They accuse Rospatent of
   not performing due diligence and Intellect of setting out to swindle
   the industry.
   "It smacks of an intellectual racket," said Tatyana Vakhnina of the
   patent law firm Center-Innotek, which is advising Ochakovo brewery.
   "We think this patent is not legitimate and we will ask the appeal
   chamber to annul it. It [the patent application] was written so
   cleverly that it will be difficult to overturn. But we have 100
   percent confidence that we will release our clients from the
   obligation to pay," Vakhnina said in a telephone interview.
   Ochakovo director Alexei Kochetov was unavailable for comment.
   Vakhnina said the bottle patent rewarded the creativity in the writing
   of the patent application. The application was formulated in such
   complicated language that, at first, even engineers were baffled, she
   Intellect's argument is based on geometrical features that are
   inherent to all containers, Vakhina said. "It's Euclidean geometry. It
   could be applied to an amphora," she said. "The invention is defined
   in such a way that it embraces 90 percent of containers."
   Valery Dzhermakyan, deputy director of the Federal Institute of
   Industrial Property, said Intellect is interpreting the patent too
   broadly. "It relates to products that already existed and therefore it
   cannot universally apply to all containers in current use," he said.
   Both Dzhermakyan and Vakhnina said nothing of the sort had happened
   Valeria Karpunina, technical director of Moskvoretsky brewery, which
   also received Intellect's letter, said only a mathematician would have
   seen through the patent application and it was no wonder Rospatent's
   experts overlooked it.
   "The beer industry is booming, and I think this is why they are using
   us as a test case, but what they [Intellect] do can apply to any
   industry f bottles, perfume containers, cartridges, rockets. With
   this, they can extract tribute from everyone. It's sabotage," she
   Karpunina said Intellect had threatened to take the brewery to court
   if it didn't comply.
   Zaichenko denied Intellect had made any threats of court action,
   saying the company has so far merely proposed license agreements.
   He also dismissed the breweries' reaction as emotional, saying the
   "patent is good and within the law."
   He refused to comment on the precise nature of what is novel in the
   patent or what proof Intellect has that breweries are violating patent
   He also said that too much fuss was being made about the breweries and
   that they were at the bottom of the list of Intellect's activities.
   Industry insiders said Intellect's claims seemed absurd.
   "It's nonsense," said Sergei Alexeyev, of the Glass Research Institute
   marketing department. "You can patent a bottle only if it's original,
   has an original lense, for example, or a label. This might be a case
   of a group of people who got together to cheat everybody."
   Sergei Mikheyev, director of Badayevsky brewery, said the bottle
   claims reminded him of a feud this year over the Zhigulyovskoye beer
   The brand was produced throughout the Soviet Union but was never
   patented. Breweries were encouraged to promote the brand.
   Many breweries inherited the brand after the Soviet Union broke up and
   continued to produce it until a brewery in Samara claimed exclusive
   rights after obtaining a patent for it. The brewery won a string of
   court cases, but after competitors appealed to Rospatent, it withdrew
   the patent.
   Dzhermakyan said Intellect's demands could be considered extortion if
   Rospatent's appeal chamber establishes that it is trying to extend its
   patent to a product that had been in use before Intellect filed its
   patent application.
   He said that at the time the application was examined, papers that
   could have stopped the patent from being approved might not have been
   available to experts.
   As for Intellect's claims against producers, they must be for a
   concrete product, he said. "If, in the course of chamber hearings,
   Intellect loses two to three patent cases, the other tens or hundreds
   of patents they have will collapse like a house of cards."
                    copyright The Moscow Times 1997-1999

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