February 20, 2018 / 2:01 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Court rules SPI Group owns Stolichnaya vodka brand in Austria

(Adds detail, background)

VIENNA, Feb 20 (Reuters) - An Austrian court has ruled Spirits International (SPI) owns the trademark rights to Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya vodka in Austria, only weeks after SPI lost a similar case in the Netherlands.

SPI Group, controlled by Russian tycoon Yuri Shefler, has been battling for years with Russia's state-owned Sojuzplodoimport over the ownership of the famed Stolichnaya brand in courts around the world.

Shefler, whose net worth is estimated at more than $2 billion by Forbes Magazine, left Russia in 2001 after the country's Supreme Court stripped him of rights to the brand within the Russian Federation.

"The Appellate Court of Linz ruled in favour of SPI Group, confirming their ownership of both trademarks in Austria," SPI said in a statement.

A court spokesman confirmed the Feb. 5 ruling.

Sojuzplodoimport could not immediately be reached for comment.

SPI faces challenges over the Stolichnaya brand in other European Union countries, as well as the United States and Australia.

Last month, a Dutch appeals court awarded the rights to the brand in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg to Sojuzplodoimport.

Legal action in the United States and Australia were on hold pending better documentation from Sojuzplodoimport, SPI said in January, adding it had won a similar suit in Brazil. (Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Francois Murphy and Mark Potter)

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