| Was Stoli
Unraveling the trademark mystery
By Bernice Yeung. Freelance writer Irina Slutsky assisted in reporting and translating.
California Lawyer Magazine
Russians love vodka. A lot. In fact, it's so beloved that there's a word, zapoi, devoted to its overuse. it means "binge" or "hard-drinking," a useful word in a country that annually consumes an estimated 4 billion liters of vodka-or about 35 bottles a year for every person in the country. A little more than a decade ago the Russian government enjoyed a monopoly on the product. That ended with the privatization reforms of President Boris Yeltsin, a vodka lover himself. Since the reforms, the country's most popular brands, including Stolichnaya, known as Stoli, have ended up in the hands of an elusive Russian entrepreneur, Yuri Shefler. Shefler controls the global trademark rights to Stoli and other leading varieties. He also happens to be wanted by the Russian government for allegedly threatening to dismember a government official.