The Russian firm Izhmash (Izhevsk
Mechanical Works) holds the patents for the AK-47, and is having little success
in trying to force companies in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Israel, China and
the United States to pay licensing fees for the AK-47s they produce. The
typical defense is that a much improved rifle is being produced, that has only
a superficial similarity to the Izhmash AK-47. Some claim that Russia abandoned
the AK-47 design in the 1970s, when they switched to the 5.45mm AK-74. Actually, the original AK-47 design was
replaced in 1963, at least in Russia, by the similar (in appearance) AKM.
201 years old, and was originally founded by the Czarist government as an
arsenal, for the production of military weapons. In the 1920s, the firm began
to produce motorcycles as well, and later, automobiles. It has long been a
major manufacturer of Russian military rifles, machine-guns and pistols.
Soviet period (1923-91), there were patent laws on the books, but these were
generally not observed, especially when it came to foreign technology. The
Soviets would respect patents when it suited their purposes (that is, it was
cheaper to get help from the patent holder to implement a technology, than it
was to just steal it and figure it out), but generally the concept of
intellectual property was ignored. Having allowed that kind of thinking to gain
some traction, the Russians have had a hard time enforcing rights to Soviet era
Russian inventions in a post-Soviet world.