The Merchandising of Russian Populism

There’s an amusing story in the Journal today about one of Russia’s best-selling vodka brands, Putinka, which has largely seen a surge in its market share thanks to the similarity to the president’s name. This technique of merchandising Russian populism is big business, having brought the company $500 million in annual revenue, and extending into other product areas such as jarred eggplants, bar snacks and cakes. Russian Blog Putinka hasn’t had any trademark problems because it uses a cute diminutive form of Putin’s name and sounds similar to “an obscure Russian fishing term.” The Journal reports:

Mr. Putin, “has an extraordinarily negative attitude towards attempts to use his name for commercial purposes,” says spokesman Dmitry Peskov. But the president has no legal means to block it, Mr. Peskov said. Vinexim says it hasn’t received any complaint from the Kremlin about Putinka.

“No legal means” to prevent the commercial exploitation of his name? Since when has that stopped the Russian government from exerting its will?