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Barroom brawls have been known to break out now and again after revelers down a few too many cocktails. But next time you indulge in your favorite Stolichnaya concoction, consider the legal brawl brewing behind the popular Russian-made vodka. Covington & Burling is representing the SPI Group, which owns the Stolichnaya trademark, against the Russian government’s attempt to take over the rights to the trademark. The government has already succeeded in acquiring the rights in Russia but is now on a mission to do so elsewhere in the world. The effort is part of a wider campaign launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin to renationalize privatized assets and industries. Oscar Garibaldi, a partner in Covington’s D.C. office, is overseeing the case. He is also leading an effort to coordinate litigation in other countries, including Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, and Brazil. Covington senior counsel Bingham Leverich is the lead trademark counsel on the case, and partner Eugene Gulland is the lead trial counsel. In March 2006, a New York federal court dismissed all of the Russian government’s claims against SPI, but the ruling has since been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Garibaldi says he expects oral arguments in the appellate court sometime within the first quarter of 2008.
Marisa McQuilken can be contacted at [email protected].

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