The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that a Russian state-owned company can sue U.S. distributors of Stolichnaya vodka in a dispute over which entity inherited the brand after the Soviet Union collapsed—the Russian Federation or private companies successive to the company that sold the product before the dissolution. Fed. Treasury Enter. Sojuzplodoimport v. Spirits Intl. BV, No. 14-4721 (2nd Cir., order entered January 5, 2016).
A lower court previously held that the Russian Federation’s Federal Treasury Enterprise Sojuzplodoimport (FTE) did not have standing to sue, but the appeals court disagreed. “The declaration of a United States court that the executive branch of the Russian government violated its own law by transferring its own rights to its own quasi-governmental entity (FTE) would be an affront to the government of a foreign sovereign,” the appeals court held. “Even an inquiry into whether Russian law permitted the Assignment is a breach of comity.” Additional information about the lengthy dispute appears in Issue 536 of this Update.