No to foreign words: it is planned to limit the use of borrowings in advertising and on signage

At the end of 2023, a draft law was submitted to the State Duma, which will further limit the opportunity to use borrowed words in advertising, on signage, in names of residential complexes and in names of goods that may be mentioned in product information. The creators of the law explain that the draft is targeted at the “aggressive active use” of “attention-grabbing foreign words.”

It is planned that amendments will be made to a number of laws, including those “On the State language”, “On Culture”, and “On Librarianship”, among others. Those with the greatest practical significance are the amendments to the laws “On Consumer Protection”, “On Advertising”, “On the Mass Media”, and “On participation in shared-equity construction”.

Current legislation

Currently, the use of foreign words in advertising is also limited. According to the Law “On Advertising”, it is not allowed to use foreign words and expressions in advertising when this may distort the meaning of information. According to the law “On the State Language”, when foreign words and expressions are used in advertising, texts in Russian and in the relevant foreign language must be identical in their content, as well as equivalent in terms of placement and technical design (in other words, they must have the same parameters in terms of color, type and font size).

Based on decisions of the Antimonopoly Service, the use of text in a foreign language in advertising without a translation into Russian (such as double combo, gluten free, and similar) is a violation of advertising legislation.

What is going to change?

In short, if the draft law comes into force, restrictions on the use of foreign words will apply not only to advertising, but also to any publicly available information about goods and services that is not classed as advertising, as well as to the names of residential complexes and capital construction projects. Moreover, judging by the comments of the authors of the initiative, the words in question may include some that have already become quite firmly established in the Russian language.

The Law “On Consumer Protection”

If the amendments come into force, entrepreneurs will be obliged to place publicly available information about goods and services in Russian. This means information about the types and characteristics of goods and services, about the seller, and so on, which is posted in a place that is accessible to the general public and is not classed as advertising. At the same time, it is possible to duplicate information in foreign languages, so that the text is identical to the Russian version.

The law “On Advertising”

It is planned to introduce rules requiring information contained in advertising in a foreign language to be supplemented with similar information in Russian, which is equivalent in terms of placement and technical design. This, in fact, duplicates the rules of the law “On the State Language”.

The law “On the Mass Media”

This law will be supplemented by provisions stating that the information programs on national public channels must be broadcast in Russian, as well as in the languages of republics within Russia and of peoples living in constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

The Law “On Participation in Shared-equity construction”

The law will provide that the commercial designation individualizing a capital construction facility or a group of such facilities, as well as the name of a residential complex, must be rendered in Russian. Names such as “Neva Residence”, “Neva Haus” or “Riviere Noire” will no longer be allowed to be used – at least as the main names of residential complexes – when such residential complexes are advertised.

Entry into force and liability

The law is expected to enter into force in 2025 at the earliest. By this date, the authors of the law plan to develop “reference dictionaries”, which will summarize words of foreign origin that, respectively, have or lack analogues in the Russian language. The authors of the law believe that it would not be reasonable to impose liability for the abuse of anglicisms before such dictionaries have been created.

There are no plans as yet to amend the Administrative Code. Some existing rules could be successfully used in the future to hold persons accountable for non-compliance with the requirements of the law, namely: Article 14.3 of the Administrative Code (a violation of advertising legislation), and Article 14.8 of the Administrative Code (a violation of consumer rights). However, for example, in relation to the media, there are currently no suitable rules for imposing liability.

What to do?

Latin names traditionally attract consumers, and it will be difficult to abandon them. The simplest and most convenient way out of this situation is to register all available commercial designations as trademarks, since it is planned that the requirements for “russification” will not apply to trademarks. Thus, after a trademark has been registered, it will be possible to use the favorite name of a residential complex or cosmetic product in the form to which consumers have grown accustomed.

Vera Zotova
Senior Associate, PhD in Law

+7 931 210 50 03
St. Petersburg

Olga Nechaeva
Junior Associate

+7 921 639 65 71
St. Petersburg