Copycats of McDonald's and other Western brands are racing to fill a void in Russia. Imitators like 'Starducks' and Big Mac ripoff 'Bikmak' show what could happen next.
- Trademarks that imitate Western brands like McDonald's are already popping up in Russia.
- The Russian government approved trademarks for an "Uncle Vanya" McDonald's look-alike.
Western brands from McDonald's to Ikea to H&M have decided to end their presence in Russia under the threat of sanctions after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.
But copycat versions of those brands developed by Russians are already positioning themselves to fill the void.
This week, Russia's trademark regulator fielded a trademark application for a McDonald's imitator brand called "Uncle Vanya," according to the application. The logo for the brand includes McDonald's famous golden arches, but rotated 90 degrees and formed into the Russian letter "В," which sounds like the English "V" for "Vanya."
Russian authorities also listed trademark applications for "Starbucks," "Makdonalds," and "Makdak," all three from the same applicant.
The trademark appeared after Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia's parliament, suggested last week that a brand named "Uncle Vanya" should replace McDonald's in Russia. It's not known who filed the trademark or if the brand will become a functioning restaurant.
The Russian government indicated earlier this month that it would allow individuals and businesses to use patents and trademarks, including brand names, from so-called "unfriendly countries" without permission.
Bootleg versions of Western brands have been operating for several years in breakaway regions of Ukraine where governments sympathetic to Russia operate.
Crimea, for instance, has been occupied by Russian forces since 2014. The same year, Pro-Russian separatist governments formed in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Eastern Ukraine.
Sanctions imposed by the US and other countries soon afterward prompted Western brands, including McDonald's, to cease operations in those areas — just as many have done this year in Russia.
Imitation brands proliferated, filling the void left by the Western brands.
One is "DonMak," a chain whose yellow, M-shaped logo bears a resemblance to McDonald's own. The restaurant operates in Donetsk.
At DonMak, customers can order items that imitate McDonald's classics, such as a "Bikmak," "Filye-o-fish," according to a menu posted to a page on Russian social media site VK for the chain's Donetsk restaurants.
Fried chicken fans can go to Crimean Fried Chicken, or CFC, which sells buckets of chicken in addition to burgers, barbeque, and chicken sandwiches. It uses the motto "I'm good here!" on its website and in its six restaurants around the Crimean city of Sevastopol.
Starducks, meanwhile, serves lattes, espressos, cocoa, and tea at locations in Crimea.
Not all Western restaurants are pulling out of Russia and creating an opportunity for copycats.
An operator in Russia for Papa John's told The New York Times this week that his franchisees would continue to operate their restaurants in the country. The choice led some to criticize Papa John's on social media, NBC News reported.
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