While commercial disputes relating to protecting business reputation, sometimes termed ‘trade libel’, are not the most common types of commercial disputes, when such disputes arise, the entrenched positions of the parties often result in cases appearing before the courts. Such cases catch not only the attention of lawyers, but also the media and, in turn, the public, further raising the importance of such disputes. Russia is like many jurisdictions in this respect, but unlike many other jurisdictions, in Russia protection from trade libel also extends to companies as well as their goods and services.

Primarily, Russian trade libel laws impact businesses with a presence in Russia but there is also scope for Russian companies to make claims against foreign companies and individuals who do not have a presence in Russia. Therefore, a media company or content provider can run the risk of being made a respondent in a Russian court. Such cases can involve wealthy individuals and oligarchs, who have the resources to defend their interests in the courts and are prepared to litigate against publications.

Proving a case

How easy is it for claimants to succeed in trade libel claims in Russian courts? The courts hear around 500 trade libel cases annually, but statistics show that the majority of claimants are unsuccessful. In 2017, only 38.6 percent of defamation or libel claims involving businesses were at least in part approved by the commercial courts; however, this is up from 2015-2016 when only 22-24 percent of claimants’ applications were successful.

Jan-Mar 2019 issue

Maxima Legal