Web Sheriff Ltd., a London-based company protecting online rights against infringements, announced last week it “fired the first shots in an international legal battle against an alleged Russian imposter” – namely Iks Media Digital, a Moscow-based company offering similar services to the Russian market under the same trademark.

“The rogue website, operating under the WebSheriff.ru banner, has not only copied Web Sheriff’s trademark, but also poses to offer similar services,” Web Sheriff Ltd. stated, calling the dispute a “digital Cold War.”

“These accusations are unfounded and absurd,” said Andrey Reznikov, internal legal adviser for Iks Media, in a statement released yesterday. “We operate in Russia on an entirely legal basis under the Websheriff trademark. The trademark application for Russia was filed in 2008 and the official registration was confirmed in 2009.”

“There could be a problem only if Websheriff.ru began operating in the US market under the same trademark. But Websheriff.ru works only on the Russian market using innovative solutions,” Reznikov added.

John Giacobbi of Web Sheriff Ltd. (left) fired the first shots on Russian Web Sheriff (right).

“The registration in Russia can be put at doubt,” Web Sheriff Ltd. founder John Giacobbi said to East-West Digital News in a phone interview. “In 2008, our company and brand already enjoyed quasi-universal recognition in the music and movie industries. By ignoring this fact, the registration declaration to the Russian registry was fraudulent.”

The Web Sheriff trademark was registered in the UK in 2002. “Last year, we also filed a trademark application in the US, but this procedure is always very slow,” added Giacobbi.

Web Sheriff Ltd.’s “intercontinental legal attack” includes two legal actions: one in Russia for fraudulent trademark registration and one in the US for damage to the company. Litigators Young & Wassermann and Tolpin Law have been retained by Web Sheriff Ltd. in Russia and in the US respectively.

Giacobbi said his company is considering expansion to markets such as Russia and China. Iks Media Digital warned: “Should Web Sheriff Ltd. use the WebSheriff trademark to operate in Russia, disregarding Russian law, we could file a lawsuit for author rights violation.”

Founded in 2000, Web Sheriff Ltd. earned its reputation as an internet policing expert in the music industry, working with clients such as Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, and Lady Gaga. Using a “gradual approach” – which includes online legal enforcement and high-tech anti-piracy applications – the company has closed down a number of illegal web sites across the globe. Its services are also sought after to suppress illegal peer-to-peer file sharing activity and prevent illegal retail activity through otherwise legal web sites.

The Russian Web Sheriff monitors over 2,400 websites, including social networks and video hosting sites, and provides moderation services to some of them. On Vkontakte.ru, the leading Russian-language social network, Websheriff.ru deletes up to 40,000 illegal content copies per day, the company revealed last February.