Will Russia Secure AK-47 Copyright Before Kalashnikov Goes Under?

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Kalashnikov’s lack of copyright over the AK-47 assault rifle is so severe that Venezuela is the only country with a fully legitimate license to produce the assault rifle.

The counterfeit losses resulting from copyright infringement is so dire that Kalashnikov, manufacturer of the AK-47, is reporting an estimated loss of $50 million from 2013.

According to Rosoboronexport, black market sale and development of the AK-47 have been so widespread that over 100 million assault rifles have sold worldwide, half of them are counterfeit.

Kalashnikov has faced an uphill battle, losing an estimated $400 million to $500 million a year from counterfeit AK-47 makers, the gun-maker said.

During the cold war, the Soviet Union awarded AK-47 licenses to 18 countries including China, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, East Germany and Egypt.  Many of them continued to make the weapon illegally after their permits expired, then-Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said in 2008 in calling for a crackdown on black-market production. Other countries produced copies of the weapon without any license, he added.

Although the Soviet Army began developing it in 1949, it wasn’t until1997 that the Izhmash factory in the Ural Mountains city of Izhevsk, which makes Kalashnikovs, secured a state patent for the weapon and began pressing foreign manufacturers to respect its copyright.

Kalashnikov makers, including East European nations and China, have indicated a willingness to respect Russian copyright but have said that the deals should be negotiated on a government level.  However it’s unclear when the laws will come into effect or how long it might take to negotiate a deal with China.  Known of being sturdy and dependable, the AK-47 can fire 600 bullets a minute and is so easy to handle that Soviet schoolchildren were taught to assemble it with their eyes closed.