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Russia

Pussy Riot, The Brand: Legal Battle Over Trademark Of Embattled Russian Band

Pussy Riot (c)?
Pussy Riot (c)?
Grigorii Tumanov and Aleksandr Voronov

MOSCOW - The Russian patent office has announced on its official website that it has denied Pussy Riot’s application for a trademark.

The application has been at the center of a major conflict about the use of Pussy Riot’s "brand." Band member Yekaterina Samutsevich had requested that one of the group’s lawyers, Mark Feigin, not use the group’s brand for commercial purposes, because she and other group members are against commercial usage of the name.

The trademark application was made by Feigin’s wife, who has already signed a 200,000-pound ($320,000) contract for a film using Pussy Riot’s name.

The members of Pussy Riot have gotten into a major conflict with the group’s lawyers over the use of the brand name. According to Samutsevich, Feigin is trying to make money from the group in a way that goes against band members’ values. Her lawyer says he hopes the patent office’s refusal to issue a trademark will be enough to prevent Feigin’s commercial abuse.

The application for a trademark was filed by “Film Company Web-Bio,” which belongs to Feigin’s wife, Natalia. The company tried to register the trademark in five categories of goods and one services category. They were planning to release pins, toys, clothing, flash drives, DVDs, pens, booklets and all sorts of printed items. The company was also counting on getting international rights to the band in the "entertainment" category. That would allow the company to release CDs, films, concerts and music under the group’s name. The patent office’s refusal to issue a trademark in this case was absolute; no part of the application was approved.

No curse words allowed

Vadim Uskov, head of a law firm dealing with related issues, explained the patent office’s refusal. “Usually curse words are blocked from being registered as a trademark,” he said. There was an example recently when singer had to file extensive documentation to register a trademark that included an obscure jargon word.

“Even if they were to register a trademark, they would be required to ensure that they had the agreement of all of the members of the group, and that would require a written agreement from each band member,” according to Uskov.

The Patent Office’s refusal does not mean that the conflict between Pussy Riot and Feigin is over. The reason for the conflict between the two parties goes back to Web-Bio’s contract with a European production company, Roast Beef Productions Limited, which was not authorized by the group.

Immediately after the contract was signed, Feigin’s wife received a transfer of 30,000 pounds ($48,000); she is set to receive another 170,000 pounds ($271,000) in the near future. All of the band members were completely against the commercial use of the Pussy Riot name, but it has become clear that Feigin’s wife’s company has managed to sign at least one other contract using the Pussy Riot name, for the publication of books.

Feigin said that neither he nor his wife have anything to do with the commercialization of Pussy Riot’s name. “I am surprised that this story, that has nothing to do with either my wife or myself, has all of a sudden exploded,” he said in an interview. But Web-Bio, the company that submitted the trademark application, is registered to the same address as the home of Feigin and his wife. It is the same address that Feigin had indicated as his home address, to which donations could be sent, on Pussy Riot’s official website.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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