Ministry of Justice Comments on Registration of NGO Logos

20 November 2012 

Source: (info
Russia's Ministry of Justice has effectively admitted the illegality of its practice of prosecuting non-governmental organizations for using symbols that have not been registered with the Ministry of Justice.

Analysts from the Agora Human Rights Association human rights association came to this conclusion after studying an explanatory note to a draft federal law that would provide for amendment to the regulations concerning the use of logos by NGOs, published yesterday on the Ministry's website.

The public guidance published by the Ministry relates to the draft law “On changes to Article 3 of the Federal Law 'On non-profit organizations' and to the Federal Law 'On public associations' dealing with logos used by non-profit organizations'. The Ministry is suggesting that it no longer be responsible for registering NGO symbols.

The document states that “In accordance with Article 3, Clause 4, of the Federal Law 'On non-profit organizations', a non-profit organization has the right to use a logo only if it has been registered in the proper manner, which violates the right of non-profit organizations to use any other kinds of logos.”

The Ministry of Justice has emphasized that the draft law is intended to “establish a unified legal regulation of issues related to use of logos by non-profit organizations on the basis of the federal law 'On non-profit organizations'.

“Basically, the Ministry of Justice has admitted the unsound nature and illegality of its practice to date of prosecuting NGOs for using logos not registered with them,” commented Ramil Akhmetgaliev, a lawyer and legal analyst working for Agora. “The Ministry has indicated in this draft law that logos used by NGOs and the branding methods used by commercial organizations are the same thing in a legal sense. The registration of such symbols is usually a voluntary step that ensures that it cannot be subject to claims by third parties.”

“However, the Ministry of Justice and its local bodies are forcing NGOs to register their logos as a matter of course, telling them that registration is essentially a question of getting permission from the government to use these logos. This is direct in contravention of the Russian Constitution. Logos are an expression of the creativity of NGOs and their members, but this government body is saying to them: 'You only have the right to use what you have created, if we allow you to.' It is the same as the government denying an author the right to distribute a book unless he gets permission from the authorities.”

On 18th October, the Leninsky district court in the city of Perm accepted the conclusions of the regional office of the Ministry of Justice on the use of logos by the Perm Human Rights Centre. The Russian Ministry of Justice's opinion, and that of the Ministry’s office in the Perm Region, is that NGOs can only use logos after registering them with the Ministry of Justice. Human rights organizations have lodged an appeal against this decision by the Leninsky district court. If the Perm Regional Court does not overturn this decision, an appeal will be lodged with the Constitutional Court.

According to information released by the Ministry of Justice, 219,152 non-profit organizations were registered in Russia as of 1 January 2012. Over the five-year period from 2007 to 2011, the number of applications to register a logo by NGOs rose from 80 to 1403, with 614 applications being made in the first six months of 2012.

Click here for the explanatory note issued by the Ministry of Justice (in Russian)