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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

A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

CPRESSPHOTO/ZUMA
Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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