Russians Building Up Defenses

Russia turns a blind eye to all sorts of copyright violations, but they are mounting a defense for one that they won’t tolerate anymore.

Russia will step up action to defend the copyright of the Kalashnikov, which is made without license by dozens of manufacturers around the world, said Anatoly Isaikin, the chief of the nation’s state arms-trading monopoly.

The Kalashnikov has become the world’s most widely distributed weapon, with some 100 million made in the 60 years since the AK-47 went into serial production, but only about half of them are the genuine, locally made article. …

Isaikin said his company, Rosoboronexport, was working to draft agreements with foreign countries that would protect copyright for Kalashnikovs and other Russian weapons. There are about 30 foreign manufacturers who are currently making Kalashnikovs, he said.

”Together with other federal structures, we are taking steps to establish order,” Isaikin said.

The Soviet Union paid little attention to copyright laws, easily handing out arms production licenses to its satellites in eastern Europe and elsewhere. The Cold War-era production licenses have long-since expired, but production has continued.

It wasn’t until 1997 that the Izhmash factory in the Ural Mountains city of Izhevsk, which makes Kalashnikovs, secured a state patent for the weapon and began pressing foreign manufacturers to respect its copyright.

Izhmash director Vladimir Grodetsky said the company has faced an uphill battle, loosing an estimated $400 million to $500 million a year from counterfeit Kalashnikov makers.

I’m sure there’s an “In Soviet Russia…” joke in there somewhere, but I simply cannot think of a good one at the moment.

10 thoughts on “Russians Building Up Defenses”

  1. Copyright does not work that way.

    If it were to be protected, it would be protected under patent law or maybe trademark law.

    That being said,
    -any patent is either going to be a) expired by now b) precluded by either prior art or statutory bars based on the long period of public use
    -any trademark claim is going to be complicated by the fact that Russia has let the AK-47 and Kalashnikov names pass into widespread general use for decades and in fact encouraged the use of these terms to refer to any weapons that function in the same manner as the original Kalashnikovs. It’s a pretty good example of a genericized trademark like aspirin or xerox.

    The problem isn’t that people kept manufacturing after the “licenses” expired. The problem is that Russia had nothing to license in the first place. They were really just supplying manufacturing tooling to client states.

  2. jim: Copyright could eaily protect the Kalashnikov name, and perhaps “AK-47”, given that the K is “Kalashnikov”.

    They couldn’t stop someone from making an AK-47-pattern rifle with copyright, but they could likely stop them from calling it an “AK-47”.

    (I also don’t know that the Soviets “encouraged” people to call the rifles Kalashnikovs in a general sense. Nor will a special treaty be affected by the general terms of copyrights; a treaty could be made that granted copyright on any number of things to anyone, in one or more jurisdictions, and that would be perfectly lawful in principle.

    Also, Xerox is still a protected trademark, precisely because Xerox, Inc. fights like the dickens to keep it specific.

    Aspirin became un-protected not by generic use but by reparations under the Treaty of Versailles, and only in some jurisdictions.)

  3. “jim: Copyright could eaily protect the Kalashnikov name, and perhaps “AK-47″, given that the K is “Kalashnikov”.”

    Except (at least in the U.S.) they’ve gone 60 years without making any effort to protect it, and never filed for copyright or trademark protection in that same time, either. At least under U.S. law, if you don’t act to protect a copyright or trademark, you forfeit the ability to do so.

    Silly Izhmash. They bought a patent on what is, effectively, an open-source design, and expected to be able to enforce it!

    I wonder if an argument can be made that, since the original owners (the Soviet Union) specifically repudiated the concept of ownership of property, there is no basis for their heirs (the Russian government) to claim it now?

    Can anyone say “irony”?

  4. Copyrights don’t protect names. Trademarks do. There’s nothing about the rifle or name that can be copyrighted, and they have a very weak trademark claim.

  5. Is there such a thing yet as a 100% made-in-the-USA Kalashnikov? If not, there ought to be, but none of the jobs which might get created from such an endeavor should be credited to Obama’s stimulus.

    Or should they?

    On one hand, Barry boy’s election definitely triggered a surge in gun and ammo sales, but on the other hand, I’m not so sure whether gunsmithing and firearms manufacturing would count as a “shovel ready” project. It would be more like a “CNC machine ready” project, I guess.

  6. After having given-away many millions of rifles, and having helped set up manufacturing facilities without licensing requirements in many countries around the world in order to ferment “revolution” – yes they have a very weak claim.

  7. Any patent would have expired years ago. As for ‘copyright’ or a Service Mark protection, seeing as how the AK is on, IIRC, Namibia’s national flag, and boys are named “Kalash”, this would be like Scotch or Xerox trying the same stunt.

    Tough sh!tsky, Boris!!

  8. Perhaps I’m not alone on this one, but I seem to recall an interview being done in the recent past with Mikhail Kalashnikov himself, the original inventor of the whole Kalashnikov weapon system, which was initiated with the venerable AK-47 rifle.

    While Kalashnikov did lament the fact that his rifle wound up being often used by terrorists in this interview, I have never read anything since then about him lamenting the loss of revenue over copyright infringements on said rifle.

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