If you live in one of a former republics of USSR you are likely to believe – probably with good reason – that the technology manufactured abroad, in particular in Western Europe or USA, is of far superior quality to that of produced locally.
The local manufacturers are aware of their negative image, and have been going to great lengths to disguise their merchandise as western, by labelling their products with English names or even creating shell-companies in other countries to create the appearance that their technology and production centers are located abroad.
Case in point, the REDMOND trademark, covering a variety of multi-cooks and other appliances. Only a few weeks ago, the Latvian Department of Consumer Protection have reached the conclusion that the multi-cooks REDMOND RMC-PM4507 and First Austria FA-5130 are unsafe for use, and are a hazard for users and domestic environment.
Consumers in Russia, Ukraine and other countries of Eastern Europe, are lead to believe that REDMOND is a US company. The confusion comes from the fact that the entity on which REDMOND trademark has been registered is based in US, but on further scrutiny it comes out that it is a mere shell-company, incorporated by two citizens of Panama, Alex Glavachek and Ismael Gerli, and carries no business activities to speak of.
The actual owner of REDMOND, according to the Russian Federal Agency on Intellectual Rights, Patents and Trademarks, is the company “Tehnopoisk”, from Saint-Petersburg. “Tehnopoisk” is owned by several Russian, Ukrainian and Latvian citizens, while the appliances are reportedly manufactured in China.
It is worth mentioning that although REDMOND has induced customers to believe that they were buying goods from a bona fide American business, it never publicly announced itself as a US company in Russia and Latvia. In Ukraine, however, the “American” REDMOND followed a far more aggressive strategy in a bid to wipe out the competition and monopolize the market.
In 2014, the already known Ismael Gerli filed civil cases against every wholesale chain in Ukraine requesting them to remove all the brands using the word “multi-cook” in their instructions. The question is, how could have a Panamanian lawyer manage to file a trademark on the word “multi-cook”?
As it turns out, Mr. Gerli has introduced himself to several governmental officials in Ukraine as a diplomat – specifically, as the Honorary Consul of Hutt-River Principality in Panama. The title does not amount to much in reality – the Principality of Hutt-River is a fictitious country in Western Australia, “founded” in 1970 and counting 23 actual residents. It is not recognized by any other nation, and mainly serves as tourist attraction for the eccentricity of its founder, Leonard George Casley (who styles himself “Prince Leonard”).
It is more likely that Mr. Gelri has created an impression on certain Ukrainian public servants not with his “diplomatic status”, but rather with his ability to divert dirty money to Panama. The Panamanian lawyer has been indicted in a money laundering case against the former president of Nicaragua, Arnoldo Aleman (now serving a 20 year sentence), back in 2003. Since 2007, Ismael Gerli has been under investigation in Spain, also for money laundering, this time in connection with a famous swindle of Forum Filatelico – apparently, Mr. Gerli had diverted 12 million Euros from the Spanish investors to another Panamanian company under his name. Very recently, Ismael Gerli has become a defendant in yet another criminal case in Panama – this time, he is accused of embezzling his client, Mr. Vladimir Kokorev, and taking over his property in Panama City through a series of forged documents – an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Back in Ukraine, the local businessmen are taking steps to challenge Ismael Gerli’s aspirations to trademark multi-cooks. “One cannot trademark words and expressions used by general public… We shall keep working and our inventory stays on the store-shelves. Should “Redmond” attempt a more aggressive approach, we are prepared to meet them in courts,” said Mr. Oleg Emelyanov, the head of company Bork in Ukraine.
“Panasonik-Ukraine” and “Golder-Electronics- Ukraine” are preparing to challenge the trademark filed by Mr. Gerli as well.
Their lawyers consider that the chances of success are quite high. In April 2015, the Federal Anti-Trust Agency of Saint-Petersburg has already stated that the trademark on the word “Multicook” is illegal, and fined “Redmond” and “Tehnopoisk” for their actions, “contrary to justice and common sense, and susceptible of damaging other manufacturers and their business reputation”.