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Russia Claims IP Rights In Manufacture of AK-47 502

Daniel Dvorkin writes "In the latest example of over-the-top intellectual property demands, Russia wants licensing fees for the production of AK-47s. According to first deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov, the unlicensed production of Kalashnikovs (which have been around in very nearly their current form for 60 years) in ex-Soviet Bloc countries is 'intellectual piracy.' A giant but declining power starts demanding royalties on commonly used methods and materials that are widely understood, well known, and by any reasonable standard have long been in the public domain — does this sound familiar?" Wikipedia notes that the Izhevsk Machine Tool Factory in Russia obtained a patent on the manufacture of the AK-47 in 1999.
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Russia Claims IP Rights In Manufacture of AK-47

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  • Pay or Die! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Howitzer86 ( 964585 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:05PM (#19373139)
    This is interesting. Russia... demanding IP? Wow. What are they going to do if their demands are ignored? Invade?
    • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:10PM (#19373173) Homepage Journal
      No, they will change the manufacturing process to stop those dastardly internet pirates.
      Every single bullet on the planet will be recoded to stop working in old unpatched guns.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by eneville ( 745111 )

        No, they will change the manufacturing process to stop those dastardly internet pirates.
        Every single bullet on the planet will be recoded to stop working in old unpatched guns.

        you say this... but i remember hearing that soviet ak47's have a slightly larger round than the exported model. the reason being that if they capture enemy weaponry they could use the smaller rounds in the russian model, but the enemy who capture russian rounds is shit outta luck. how true this is i cannot say, as i would think that the chamber should be a snug fit for the ammo.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tylernt ( 581794 )
          You are half right.

          Their pistol, the 9x18 Makarov, uses a slightly oversize 9.2mm diameter bullet. NATO forces use the 9x19 cartridge with a standard 9.0mm diameter bullet.

          The point is not so the Russians could use NATO ammo, they can't (it would blow up in your face if you tried). They did it so that NATO forces couldn't use Russian ammo (the 9x18 cartridge would work in a 9x19 gun, if the bullet was only 9.0mm).
        • I've never handled Russian weaponry - but I have fiddled with their cameras, and if that's anything to go by it's just their normal manufacturing tolerances.
    • Re:Pay or Die! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by linuxmeltz ( 815217 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:14PM (#19373203)
      Nahhh, invading is sooo old school-- they'll just point some ballistic weapons your way and cut off your gas supply..
    • by aesdesdesdes ( 985569 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:28PM (#19373333)
      Ok now what idiot is gonna be the first to try enforce the patents on the A-bomb?
    • "The Economist" recently published a concise summary of relations between the West and Russia []. The summary stated, "DEMONSTRATORS thrashed on the streets of Moscow; the impending mugging of another big energy firm, this one part-owned by BP; cyberwarfare against a small neighbour; the bellicose testing of a new ballistic missile, supposedly able to bypass the American missile-defence system about which the Kremlin fulminates--and all that was only in the past fortnight. When the G8 group of rich countries
      • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <<charleshixsn> <at> <>> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @04:12PM (#19373757)
        ...The Russians make a mockery of the G-8 and its principles. This demand for licensing fees on supposed patents of a 60-year-old technology is the latest in a string of non-Western activities...

        That doesn't sound non-Western to me. I wish it did, but wishes don't make truth.

      • by sanman2 ( 928866 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @05:51PM (#19374637)
        What crap. Same old Russia-baiting BS. The US has gone out of its way to damage relations with Russia. Look at how Yeltsin's concentration of powers and suppression of political opponents was vigorously supported by the US -- just as long as he was dismantling Russia, the US didn't care. But as soon as someone isn't playing ball with Uncle Sam, then the diatribes start. Sorry, but there's no credibility in that.
        • by baldass_newbie ( 136609 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @08:06PM (#19375615) Homepage Journal
          Look at how Yeltsin's concentration of powers and suppression of political opponents was vigorously supported by the US -- just as long as he was dismantling Russia, the US didn't care.

          Mod parent up as insightful. Buddy of mine had a grad school prof who was a Russian expert that was called in by Clinton. Told Bubba that he should support Democracy and not Yeltsin.
          Ol' Bubba loved dealing with a drunk Yeltsin too much to do the noble thing and...we have reaped what he sowed.
          I watched it happen and thought it was a bad idea to support Yeltsin, but Clinton felt he was getting a patsy, thinking short term and not about the future or the damage his actions might have on others.
      • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @07:24PM (#19375273) Journal
        What a crock of shit.

        The current western version of democracy is just public relations theory. It is about making the public think they have some say in who rules their country without actually giving them too much. The problem is that we are given such a small selection of people to choose who will rule us from (2 in the US) that it does not actualy count as a democracy according to the strict (original) definition.

        The other problem is that once a particular person / party has been elected they are very hard to remove from power even if they make some very unpopular decisions. A better description of the current system in the US or UK (or Russia for that matter) would be an elected dictatorship. Some countries in Europe do slightly better by allowing proportional representation rather than "first past the post" but these still probably would not count as a democracy in the orignal sense.

        One problem with current democracy is that you need huge amounts of money to get elected, this rules out most people. This may also explain why both of the frontrunner democratic candidates (Barrack and Hillary) have taken money from the RIAA even though a great deal of the american population (I have not said majority of the US population so lets not get into semantics) voted them the worst company in the US.
        (The source for this is here: merica/contact-information-for-50-politicians-who- take-campaign-money-from-the-riaa-264638.php [])

        Anyone who has read this far might find it interesting too look at the definition of Democracy with respect to constitutional republics as defined on the wikipedia page here: []

        Please also note that I am not trying to argue that one is superior to the other, I am just trying to suggest that democracy is often overrated when used in the modern context of the word.

        I also take issue with you implying that western democracies are impartial with regard to race or sexual orientation. Until the US elect a black gay man as president or the US senate is made up of the same balance as the general population I think this is a hard case to make. Wikipedia also has a good page on this here: f_the_United_States []. Once the senate (and the senators who chair select commitees) have a simlar racial makeup and you will have a valid point but until then it still amounts to public relations theory.

        In many ways the US is moving away from impartiality in politics with regard to sexual orientation as religion becomes higher on the list of criteria people consider when choosing how to cast their vote.

        In my view the primary western value in recent years has been profit, and Russians have certainly embraced this with open arms. That is what the whole IP issue with regard to AK's is all about. They want money for people using what is a Russian state design (and a damn good one). The man who invented and designed the original AK was at the time of its design, a serving Russian military officer. If wanting to get money for what you or your employees invent is not a western value then where does the current US stance on copyright come from?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bentcd ( 690786 )

          The problem is that we are given such a small selection of people to choose who will rule us from (2 in the US) that it does not actualy count as a democracy according to the strict (original) definition.

          You seem to put a lot of stock into a pure interpretation of what democracy should be. Western civilization has poured a lot of time, thinking and blood into trying to get democracy to actually work, and it was found pretty early that a pure interpretation simply does not work on a large scale. Therefore, we have indirect democracy, we have representatives (and the associated need for separation of powers), we have non-proportional voting systems (e.g. to protect cultural minorities), we have limitations o

    • by neoform ( 551705 )
      This is interesting. [the United States]... demanding IP? Wow. What are they going to do if their demands (to shut down allofmp3) are ignored? Invade?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kestasjk ( 933987 )
      Russia are getting scarier and scarier recently. New missile tests, alleged poisonings, building reactors for Iran, suppression of political opposition. More than a little worrying, especially the pace it seems to be going at.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by llefler ( 184847 )
        America are getting scarier and scarier recently. Invading sovereign nations, new missile installations, secret CIA prisons, human rights violations of 'enemy combatants', an administration that disregards world opinion. More than a little worrying, especially the pace it seems to be going at.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mblase ( 200735 )
      When guns are patented, only patent clerks will own guns.
  • by wumpus188 ( 657540 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:07PM (#19373145)
    Open source it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Why not? Better to have an organized process promoting design improvement than the long-tired attempt to take financial control far too late and to the detriment of further production & enhancement.

      The Western AR-15 design has been wildly successful in this regard, with what is a de-facto open-source system. It's a highly modular design which has been widely tested with numerous production variations, accessories, and consumables.
    • Public Domain. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Erris ( 531066 )

      The AK-47 was developed under what is arguably the worst state monopoly system in history and is public domain. Specific improvements might be patented but many people paid a heavy price for it's original development and production. Ironically enough, it probably violated several western patents at the time but not even the USSR had the nerve to own ideas outside it's territory. Other nations and companies were free to make AK-47 all day long until the 1999 patent.

      So yes, it was open source in a way,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by enkafan ( 604078 ) actually refers to the AK-47 as the "the world's most popular open-source assault rifle" in an article from yesterday []. When I saw this article in my RSS reader I thought it would be pointing to that article. It compares the AK-47 to the QWERTY keyboard and attributes its success to the fact that no one has a patent on the design.
  • Sounds fair to me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:07PM (#19373147) Homepage Journal
    They got a patent. Doesn't matter who they bribed to get it. Its the law. Pay up.

    This is what we get for playing IP games and "owning" ideas.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      AFAIK, they've got no patent in Romania, one of the biggest manufacturers of "unlicensed" AK-47s. So Romania cannot be forced to cease production through legal means. Of course, there's always the gas flowing from the Big Russian brother, but that's another story.
      • by Tom Womack ( 8005 ) <> on Monday June 04, 2007 @05:33AM (#19379233) Homepage
        Romania is probably the hardest country of Eastern Europe to intimidate by means of gas supplies; it has quite substantial local production of oil (Ploesti used to be the oil capital of Europe) and of natural gas, a couple of modern nuclear reactors at Cernavoda on the Black Sea coast, and exports electricity.

        Central Romania feels very energy-poor, but that's an infrastructure rather than an availability issue; it's a big place, and not a wealthy one, and they haven't yet got round to putting in the wires and the pipes universally.
    • Re:Sounds fair to me (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pode ( 892717 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:26PM (#19373309)
      Mod parent up for being exactly correct, this is precisely what we get for playing IP games. Unfortunately I can't source this from memory, but I read not long ago in international news coverage of this issue that Russians have essentially admitted this stance is a direct result of US diplomats in the back pocket of the MPAA raising hell about and resisting Russia's application for membership in some international trade organization on the basis of unpaid royalties. Russia countered by demanding the US, as a member of said organization, abide by its IP laws and pay Russia royalties for all the AK's the CIA has had manufactured and distributed over the years. Russia doesn't want to collect money from Outer Bungholistan, they'd have to pay in goats anyway. It's specifically tit for tat with the US. If Russia has to pay royalties for US IP copied and distributed to US customers, the US should have to pay Russia for Russian IP copied and distributed to US puppets.
      • ... when Russia is chastising the US for restricitng freedoms, and doing so in a rather humourous manner.
      • ...except the CIA never really did what you dreamed they did (the Russian claim is like many - it never had any basis in reality).

        Why manufacture AK-47s when they could buy them by the thousands in the open market, from Soviet factories, or from their clients around the world at pennies on the dollar?

        The only people the Russians are going after right now are companies that, when they went into production of the rifle, were ORDERED to make them - not exactly a good argument for intellectual property rights,
    • Probably not (Score:3, Informative)

      by cirby ( 2599 )
      Unfortunately, according to their own patent laws, they can't patent the AK-47.

      "The invention shall be granted legal protection if it is novel,
      possesses an inventive level and is commercially applicable."

      Since it's been in production for over 50 years, it's certainly not "novel."

      If they argue for patentability from the initial design, then the patent time lapsed many years ago (their protection limits max out at 20 years).

      So no, it's not "the law," it's just Russia being Russia.
  • by bigtangringo ( 800328 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:09PM (#19373167) Homepage
    Sounds to me like it's the company with the patent that's asking for royalties, not Russia itself.
  • I thought you could license from a patent for 20 years, no? The patent was in 1999 - but the design was WW2?


    hello, the horse has bolted, shutting the door now does nooothing.

    besides Russia telling you to pay licensing fees is like being told to sit up straight by the hunchback of notredame*.

    *shameless rip of a fine George Galloway poke at the senate there, sorry.


    Besides, in Soviet Russia the Gun licenses you..... (kinda obligatory here.. sorry again)
    • but the design was WW2?

      No...the "47" in the name is the year of adoption by the Red Army, its first customer.


  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:12PM (#19373195)
    Take a good look at the countries that commonly use AK-47s. You're not likely to find a whole of big fans of intellectual property rights there.
  • Russia isn't Communist any more. Well, that's the simple way to look at it.

    But then, the licensing of the production to its Commrade States hardly means the USSR didn't keep its IP.

    • Russia isn't Communist any more.
      And yet, they're still up to no good [].
      It's as though the economic model had nothing to do with their totalitarian tendencies! That's unpossible!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HiThere ( 15173 )
      That's a straw-man.

      Russia MAY have been headed towards communism for a few years under Lenin. Never since then has it even tried to be communist. They used the rhetoric, but that's something different.

      FWIW, this was probably wise of them. I may not like dictatorships, but at least they can be made to, sort of, work. I'm not convinced that communism could ever be made to work on larger than a village scale. Even then it's iffy. And I doubt that Marxism could ever work on ANY scale. Groups that I'm awa
  • Update. (Score:3, Informative)

    by ushering05401 ( 1086795 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:16PM (#19373225) Journal
    Izhevsk Machine Tool Factory, referred to in the summary no longer exists as such. It is now commonly referred to as Izhmash (a collaborative of multiple guv owned manufacturing sites in the region), is owned by the government, and has been granted the right to produce contracts with whoever they want without governmental approval... giving them a leg up over most competition.

    For a list of AK-47 producing sites follow the link: []

    • Re:Update. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @04:21PM (#19373857)
      Actually, Izhevsk Machine Tool Factory (IZHevsky MASHinostroitelny zavod in Russian) IS Izhmash. It is still alive and well.

      I know this because my parents live in Izhevsk and work at Izhevsk Mechanical Factory (Izhevsky Mechanichesky Zavod) which makes hunting and sport rifles.
  • What sane nation would allow 60 year patents? Russia's claims should be laughed out of the international arena.

    (I also agree with Richard Stallman that we need to stop using the term "Intellectual Property". I've seen too many people confuse copyrights, patents, licenses, trademarks, trade secrets, etc. Whenever we can be specific, we should use the correct term: in this case it's patent.)
    • In 1950, copyrighted works lasted for at most 56 years. So works in 1950 and before SHOULD be in the public domain. But in 1976/1998, those copyright terminations were removed, seemingly violating an implicit contract with the public.

      A 95 year coyright term is no more sane than a 60 year patent term.

      It is likely now that you will never see any copyright expire for any work created in your lifetime. The constitutional "limited time" has been largly ignored.

      The US copyright term should be laughed out of the
    • Does it matter when an item is invented? If the AK47 design wasn't patented back in the 1940s (remember that in the Soviet communist state everything belonged to the state anyway) then presumably the 1999 patent would be valid.

      I guess that if Russia is expected to uphold IP rights, the rest of the world should abide by Russian patents. I doubt that anyone in Russia is interested in collecting money from desperately poor third-world countries - this would be aimed at the somewhat richer countries that manu
  • Prior art, etc. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:17PM (#19373233) Homepage Journal
    From what I understand, Mikhail Kalashnikov based parts of the AK-47 design on various other weapons. The trigger group and bolt resemble those of the M1 Garand, and the pistol grip and gas assembly resemble those of the German StG44 (widely considered to be the first true assault rifle). [Source: AK47, Duncan Long, Paladin Press 1988] How much original content must a design have before it can be patentable?

    During the Cold War, at least a dozen Warsaw Pact and non-aligned countries produced copies and variants of the AK47, with the Soviet Union's tacit, if not overt, blessing. Even now, new AKs are being built by blacksmiths in Pakistan and US gunsmiths (the latter do this to comply with ATF regulations that prohibit import of receivers and assembled rifles).

    Now that the Cold War is over, Russia wants to get paid? I'd think that with all their oil and gas income, licensing fees would be a pittence by comparison.

    • by BCW2 ( 168187 )
      The approval of the USSR was more than tacit. They gave the blueprints and told their subordinates to produce and sell these weapons and others. They caused the problem in the first place and now complain? Trying to put the cork back in the bottle when the genie is gone won't work.
  • by David20321 ( 961635 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:20PM (#19373269)
    I'm glad I'm not the debt collector.
    • Ahh, you obviously never seen a repo man with one of these [].
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by steveoc ( 2661 )
        LOL - that is ironic, and Im not sure if that was intended.

        The photo shows a Russian made T-34/85 on the right, and an American made M4 Sherman tank on the left, in Soviet service. The Allies shipped a lot of equipment to the Soviet Union during WW2, including fighters, bombers and tanks. So the photo clearly shows US intellectual property in Soviet service.

        The T-34 on the right has a German designed 'Jerry Can', which would have been knicked off someone some time prior to the photo, or did the Reds ever co
    • Come and get them.

      Now seriously that gun was first tested in 1947, we are in 2007 isn't any patent of that supposed to expire by now?
  • Good! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iamacat ( 583406 )
    Let gun production grind to a halt due to patent issues. In fact, let RIAA lawyers join the fight to express solidarity of assholes worldwide. The point is, African child soldiers don't know how to make guns. Iraq doesn't have any manufacturing capacity for AK-47s or bombs. Someone has to make those guns and sell it to all those people. If that someone goes to jail for intellectual property violations, all the merrier.
    • African child soldiers don't know how to make guns.

      No, but tribesmen operating primitive machine shops in huts all over Southern Asia do.


    • War and brutality existed LONG before gunpowder and guns were ever invented.
  • This reminds me of the controversy with France wanting to claim that "Champagne" can only refer to wine produced in the Champagne region of France, and not wines produced in California for instance. Perhaps the producers of the knockoff AK-47s should adopt the same solution the California winemakers did and call their product "Sparkling Machine Guns".
    NJ Transit [], PATH train [] schedules online
    • The French weren't able to patent sparkling wine making process, or they'd still have a legitimate claim, assuming the patent was still valid -- talk about prior art. The issue of appelation is but also settled by various international treaties.
  • "It is not a secret that such production is carried out in a number of eastern European countries, including NATO members," Sergei Ivanov said

    Let's see some of these pro "IP rights" NATO and Western countries talk their way out of this. Good for the goose, good for the gander.

  • Hey, I think I got some prior art for ya...

  • You have right to flood world arms market and make profit
  • Step 1) Develop revolutionary assault rifle.
    Step 2) Take over Eastern Europe.
    Step 3) Encourage production of said assault rifle by communist means.
    Step 4) ???
    Step 5) Profit!
  • Remember how they built their atomic bomb? Where did a lot of their semi conductor and avionic technology originate from? What was that exactly? Or does stealing Western IP not count as piracy under new Russian laws?
  • 1. What country issued the patent? (i.e., where is it enforceable?)
    2. What is the patent number?
    3. What, exactly, does it claim to cover?

    How many lazy articles (/., wikipedia, or otherwise) must we endure until submitters learn to include basic facts?
  • by brogdon ( 65526 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:51PM (#19373575) Homepage
    I get my weapons from

    They say it's totally legal
  • Have to kick in $ ever time you shoot someone... Or, how about you have to give up a % of the take if you are a revolutionary.

    This is insane. The design is what, nearly 50 years old now and is perhaps the most commonly used assault rifle in the world?

    Dont expect me to be paying up anytime soon.
  • by steveoc ( 2661 ) on Monday June 04, 2007 @01:54AM (#19377869)
    Firstly, the AK-47 itself is a derivative of the excellent German Sturmgewehr MP44, which came into mass production at the end of WW2. The Mp44 used the same 7.92mm calibre round as other German weapons, but with a much shorter cartridge, since it was reasoned that most small arms combat took place at ranges under 400m, and so a huge long range charge was not required. The benefits of this were many - cheaper to make, more ammo could be carried, and the sustained rate of fire could be higher due to the lower muzzle velocity.

    So there is a strong case for prior art, with patents (?) already held by the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany.

    After this point, the AK-47 used a different manufacturing technique to greatly simplify the build compared to the MP44. However, these simplified blueprints are very very closely related to the Tokarev SVT. If you have ever stripped down an SVT, and compared this to an AK, you will see they are pretty much the same construction techniques, just in a different scale.

    Secondly - I dont know if anyone can remember 'The Soviet Union', but it was a communist state based on the ideals of Marxism, geographically located to the East of Europe. Its a 20th Century thing - ancient history. The 'rights' to the AK47 lie entirely with the Soviet state. NOT Russia - but the Soviet Union, which is a different animal entirely. Unless of course Mr Putin wishes to disagree ...

    Thirdly, being a Soviet state, the 'intellectual property' produced by that state belongs to the workers, and not just the workers who form part of the collective of that state, but all the workers of the world. The AK47 was, if you like, GPL'ed to the point where all workers of the world were free (even encouraged) to make millions of copies of the people's machine gun, and use this tool to overthrow their Fascist, Capitalist, Monarchist oppressors.

    So don't pay attention to the lawyers good people - if you find yourself slaving away 60+ hours a week to make other people rich whilst you can barely put food on your table - then by all means, get together with your comrades and build yourselves some AK47's. Anyone that denies you that basic right is a Capitalist oppressor and a Fascist invader of the Motherland.

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.