And this is despite the fact that branding is one of the foundations of alcohol projects. In addition, the group’s plant in Mytishchi “Rodnik and K” has already expired two months ago the license of Rosalkogol to produce vodka. Soon, the Russian assets of a Ukrainian vodka company with an annual revenue of 60 billion rubles may come under the control of businessmen not connected with Ukraine.
How Khorta was nullified and Khortytsia can be canceled
As follows from the Rospatent database, the agency refused to give legal protection to the Horta trademark. Last year, its production was started by Rodnik and K companies from Mytishchi near Moscow and the Vologda Russian North instead of Khortitsa by Ukrainian vodka businessman Yevgeny Chernyak * (included by Rosfinmonitoring in the list of terrorists and extremists), who had previously withdrawn the brand from the Russian Federation.
In July 2023, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation put him on the wanted list for transferring 500 million rubles for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In 2022, Chernyak* handed over two Russian plants of the group and three trading companies – Standard Quality LLC, which was previously called TD Megapolis LLC, New Level LLC and Traditions of Success LLC (formerly Distribution Company Msd LLC ”) – to his subordinate Alexander Bespalov. However, market participants stated that Bespalov is the nominal owner. A month ago, Bespalov was arrested (formally in the case of mediating a bribe in order to avoid military service).
After the refusal to register “Horta” in Rospatent, this brand becomes actually ownerless and unprotected. The owner of the brand agency Kaufman (specializes in alcohol branding) Stanislav Kaufman noted that the holding, which is now commonly called the “Traditions of Success” group of companies, has big problems.
“Rospatent is well aware that Horta is a clone, and they will refuse for various reasons, regardless of possible appeals, even if the name is free. Moreover, “Khortytsya” is still registered with Rospatent, and, most likely, it was refused on the basis that the mark is confusingly similar to “Khorta”.
– Of course, the company can continue to produce this brand without patenting it, but then clones will appear, because all distilleries will be able to produce it. And then the factories in Mytishchi and Vologda will not be able to capitalize on the brand and risk losing their position in the market,” the expert argues.
Vadim Drobiz, director of the Center for Research on Federal and Regional Alcohol Markets, believes that it is unlikely that many factories will officially decide to produce Horta, but illegal vodka, of course, will be sold under this brand. That is, in any case, the business of Bespalov-Chernyak * will suffer.
The total revenue of the companies of the described group “Traditions of Success” for 2022 is about 60 billion rubles. Its enterprises produce a number of brands of alcohol: Morosha vodka, Pervak, Shustov cognac, various tinctures and balms. In April 2023, the Mytishchi distillery (Rodnik and K LLC) attempted to register Absolute Horta with Rospatent, but this is unlikely to succeed. Rospatent has recently begun to receive refusals for other applications of the group’s enterprises.
There is a nuance that is now unpleasant for Rospatent: in 2017, the office, at the request of the Cypriot GSH Trademarks Limited (part of Chernyak’s Global Spirits* holding), recognized the Khortytsya vodka trademark as well-known in Russia, which gives TM Khortytsya protection and privileges. There are only 252 of them in Russia. From 2015 to 2021, even Sberbank was among the licensees of Khortytsia.
“Pro-Ukrainian” vodka was generally popular with Russian officials and security officials. For example, the Yasen enterprise purchased alcohol from the Foreign Intelligence Service.
But well-known trademarks, despite the perpetuity of protection declared in the law, can still be canceled, Olga Melnikova, patent attorney, head of the Nevsky IP Law registration practice, explains to Octagon:
– It is unlikely that in the near future we can talk about the loss of wide popularity of the designation “Khortytsya” (vodka in honor of the island on the Dnieper near Zaporozhye), but now it will be possible to cancel it due to non-use. If the mark is not used within three years on the territory of the Russian Federation, then it may be prematurely terminated. Such precedents are not yet known to us, but there is a corresponding procedure in the Civil Code,” Melnikova said.
The plant in Mytishchi is no longer licensed
The enterprises of Bespalov-Chernyak* continue to work, but their problems are expanding. Andrey Lazutin, the general director of Rodnik and K, faces punishment in the aforementioned corruption case (in which Bespalov was arrested), he was chosen a measure of restraint in the form of a ban on certain actions.
More importantly, on May 24, 2023, the state license for the production of alcohol at the key plant of the group of companies, the Mytishchi Rodnik and K, expired, and a new one has not yet been registered in the Rosalkogolregulirovanie register.
If it turns out that alcohol is still produced, then the top management of the enterprise may face punishment for the illegal production of alcoholic beverages.
At the enterprise, the Oktagon correspondent was promised to be guided on questions later, but subsequently it was not possible to contact the company. At the same time, in early July, Rodnik and K published several vacancies for loaders and auxiliary workers on the Job of Russia portal.
Only the Vologda “Russian North” has a license for production (until 2026), the rest of the group’s companies – only for the storage and sale of alcohol. The Rosalkogolregulirovanie and the administration of Mytishchi did not answer questions from the Oktagon about the current situation at the plant and around obtaining licenses for bottling alcoholic beverages.
The Chernyak*-Bespalov group of companies is trying to look like its own in Russia: an application has recently been submitted for the Tsarsky Reserve vodka brand. However, due to Chernyak*’s accusations of financing the Armed Forces of Ukraine, it is highly likely that Bespalov, in one form or another, at a reasonable price, will transfer assets to businessmen not associated with Ukraine, since in the described context other enterprises of the group may also have problems with licenses.