15 July 2019

Regional brands, what they are and why they are needed for

A decision on the need to identify regional brands and to register them subsequently was made at the session of the Council for Intellectual Property Issues at the Federation Council of the Russian Federation in December 2017.[1] Since then, any mentioning the regional brands has begun to appear more and more; however, few people understand what this concept means and how it relates to intellectual property.

The regional brand concept

There is no legal definition in the legislation; however, a detailed analysis of the term allows revealing the content of the concept on one’s own. A brand is a collection of the subject matters, such as the means of individualization, a corporate identity, a company policy, goodwill of business, etc., which, in aggregate, contribute to the emergence in the minds of the consumers of the associations between the product, its quality and the manufacturer. It is logical to assume that the specificity of the regional brand is in the territory individuality. Hence, a regional brand is a complex of the subject matters of a tangible nature and an intangible one that ensure a stable associative link in the minds of the consumers between the particular products and their manufacture on the territory of the region.

It also seems that the definition formulated in “A Concept for Promoting the National Brand and the Regional Ones of the Products and Services of the Domestic Manufacture for 2007-2008” adopted by the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation is quite appropriate: “The regional brands are the brands of the Russian cities and regions that act as a marketing tool for the territories in order to attract investments and human resources, as well as the brands of the products and services localized in a particular geographical region…”[2]

As a rule, during the business development, the means of individualization is a kind of a pivot around which a brand develops subsequently, since the consumer, when purchasing the products, first of all “faces” the appearance of the product.  It is possible to register a trademark or a name of the place of origin of the product for these purposes. If it is planned to use the designation as a regional brand, one should choose the means of individualization taking into account the peculiarities of the subject matter and the specificity of the conditions of the use. Thus, one of the peculiarities of the trademark is the absolute nature of the rights of its holder. Other persons do not have a possibility to use the registered designation without the holder’s consent, while the policy of the regional brands is aimed at stimulating the manufacture of the products on the territories of the Subjects by the local manufacturers, and not only by one organization. However, as the practice shows, the registration of the trademark for use as a regional brand is quite acceptable. In the Republic of Tatarstan, the Committee for the Tourism Development of the City of Kazan has registered a fantasy trademark with the word element “Kazan” to be placed on various souvenirs, products, household chemicals and the like in relation to 24 positions of the ICGS. As Daria Sannikova, a head of the Committee for the Tourism Development of the City of Kazan, noted, the manufacturers might obtain a free license to use the trademark.[3]

Another more popular means of individualization used as a regional brand is considered to be a name of the place of origin of the product. According to the reports of Rospatent, staring from the moment of the popularization of the regional brands, the number of the names of the place of origin of the products registered annually has been increasing annually; and within the period of 2014-2018, it increased from 59 subject matters to 99 per year, i.e., almost doubled.[4] The advantages of using the name of the place of origin of the products are the following:

  • The right to use the name of the place of origin of the product may be registered in relation to an unlimited number of persons, that is, a collective use of the designation without any permission from one of the right holders is allowed.
  • It is possible to change a circle of the persons using the designation, what makes it possible to update the lists of the manufacturers actually operating on the territory of the Subject.
  • When filing an application for the registration, the applicant must justify the right to use it in connection with the special conditions of the manufactures of the product or its specific characteristics due to the territory of the manufacture, what means the manufacturer confirms that he actually manufactures the product on the specified territory and contributes to the improvement of the economic situation in the region.

The Novgorod Region became one of the first regions that had supported the development and the use of the regional brands, where the law on the regional brands had been adopted; and it is planned to defend such names of the place of origin of the products as: “Holynskie Ogurtsy,” “Krestetskaya Strochka,” “Batetskaya Kukla” and “Starorusskaya Sol.”[5]

What the regional brands are needed for

The following can be distinguished as the main reasons for promoting the regional brands:

  • The identification of the traditional and unique products, which are capable of attracting the consumers’ interest.
  • The stimulation of the domestic manufacturers due to the government support measures and to the grant of the free licenses in the case of the use of the trademarks.
  • The economic development of the regions due to the increase in the manufacture volumes.
  • The defence of the interests of the local manufacturers by registering the names of the origin of the products and the trademarks that are subsequently used as the regional brands.
  • The manufacture of the products using the regional brands for the purposes of subsequent export.

In conclusion, it should be noted that currently, the state policy on promoting the regional brands has led to an increase in the activity in the field of patenting the means of individualization, as well as to an increase in the consumer interest in the products of the regional manufacture – this speaks for the feasibility of the further development of the regional brands.

Head of Trademark Department / Trademark Attorney Reg. № 1258 / Patent Attorney of the Russian Federation / Eurasian Patent Attorney Reg. № 63