Stolichnaya-Russian-vodka-009When a Russian hands you a shot glass and as you drink down the clear liquid shouts ze vashe zdrovye!, he means to your health!

The vodka won't in fact extend your life, but it could make you giddy for awhile.

Russians may need a drink after last week's thrashing in the Second Circuit. Two entities from the Third Rome claimed rights to enforce "Stolichnaya" trademarks in the U.S. as the "assign" or "legal representative" of the Russian Federation, which they deemed the true owner of the marks. The panel upheld dismissal of the case for lack of standing under section 32(1) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114(1). The plaintiffs, it noted, did not allege that either of them in fact owned the marks as assignee of the Russian Federation. They didn't even deem themselves exclusive licensees — a status that the court believed would not suffice anyway. Nor did they allege that the Russian Federation could not for some reason sue in its own right, raising the potential for competing lawsuits. Federal Treasury Enterprise Sojuzplodoimport, No. 11-4109-cv (2d Cir. Aug. 5, 2013).

The panel also rejected the plaintiffs' theory that Rule 17(a) allowed them to sue because the Russian Federation had "ratif[ied]" their suit. Noting that section 32(1) of the Lanham Act permits only "a civil action by the registrant" of a trademark to sue, the court concluded that letting the plaintiffs use Rule 17(a) to derive standing from the Russian Federation's "registrant" status would "enlarge" the "substantive" rights under the Lanham Act, in violation of the Rules Enabling Act. Id. slip op. 46 (citing Eden Toys, Inc. v. Floreless Undergarment Co., 697 F.2d 27, 32 n.3 (2d CIr. 1982) (holding that under Copyright Act only "exclusive owner" has right to sue).