Artifact for STALKER: 1M Dollars for 1M Books

Publishers to Pay INTELLECT-S’s Client $1m in Damages for Intellectual Property Rights Infringement.

"Happiness for everybody!...Free!...Nobody will leave unsatisfied!" (Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic, the novel which originated the STALKER video game)

The litigation marathon over the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. book series published by two book companies AST and Astrel as a spinoff of the popular namesake video game, and using its logo, received further development.

The conflict originated in 2011 when the owner of the video game rights, the Cyprus company Transavision Limited, terminated the sublicense and underlying license agreements with Astrel which had stopped paying royalties and reporting to the licensor.

Astrel sued for the nullity of the terminated agreement, alleging that it had never legally existed, obviously intending to continue using Transavision's intellectual property free.

The publishers' plans never materialized: INTELLECT-S effectively defended in court Transavision's case, upheld by the Presidium of the Russian Federation Higher Commercial Court which ruled to leave the trial court's decision to dismiss the action unchanged (Case File No. А40-92833/2011).

The HCC Presidium accepted, in part, that the INTELLECT-S did license Astrel a valid sublicense to use copyrightables, so that Astrel published a large pressruns of book based on the video game, under Transavision's logo S.T.A.L.K.E.R. which our client validly owned and had full power and authority to license.

While the case moved up the chain of courts from one appeal to another, INTELLECT-S filed a number of actions on behalf of Transavision against Astrel, some related entities, and book sellers over the infringement on the copyright by publishing and distributing the books.

On May 27, the Moscow Commercial Court handed down its decision on the most extensive and complicated action involving the publication of 51 titles in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. book series. The court recognized Transavision's rights and granted INTELLECT-S's client the relief it sought against AST and Astrel: 35 million rubles in damages (Case File No. А40-9539/2012).

Labzin Maxim

Labzin Maxim

Explains INTELLECT-S Head of IP Litigation Maxim Labzin:

The central question was what part of the books was sold before the termination of the sublicense, and what part after. Who would have to demonstrate and prove it? We told the court that AST and Astrel had in fact refused to bear its burden of proof and demonstrate in full and in good faith that they had allegedly sold out all the books before Transavision terminated the sublicense agreement. Their allegation did not agree with what their discovery showed, and it was disproved by the fact on record that they had continued offering all the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. books on their website months later. Had they really sold out or destroyed the remainder, they would have discovered appropriate documents. They never did; the court accepted most of our arguments. It held that the defendants failed to demonstrate that they had rightfully marketed at least a considerable portion of the books, the outcome we are very glad of.

One more Transavision action against AST and Astrel (Case File No. А40-141009/2012) is still pending. The Intellectual Rights Court granted our cassation appeal and sent this case over the first title in the book series, Call or Pripyat, for retrial. Previously, the trial court granted our client's action in full and awarded it over 13 million rubles in damages, but the decision and award did not stand on appeal. We hope the retrial will not end in a judicial error again.

Another action (Case File No. А40-3841/2012), filed by INTELLECT-S on behalf of Transavision against AST and Premiera Publishers over the publication and distribution of workbooks, was granted in part.

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