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The strange case of Misha Verbitsky and the trademarked beard

A mathematician named Misha Verbitsky was arrested while trying to leave his native Russia for a conference in Poland, and is now banned from leaving the country. Apparently, he had been convicted in absentia of infringing Igor Pugach’s copyright in a blog post criticising him.

I was forwarded this email by a professor in my department:

Dear friends,

Misha Verbitsky is an important Russian mathematician who faces legal problems. He was sewed because he wears a beard which another Russian citizen registred as trademark. The whole story can be read here:

As stupid as it may seem, Misha has to deffend himself in court and, in the meantime, he is not allowed to leave Russia. He was arrested when trying to attend a mathematics conference in Warsaw.

Next week he should be in Nantes (France), at a conference he co-organized. It is not at all clear he will be permited to attend. I think it is important to prove we are close to him. I opened a petition for Misha at

Please sign it and tell about it to other colleagues.



Liviu Ornea    

University of Bucharest Faculty of Mathematics

14 Academiei str.

Bucharest, Romania

It now seems that that email was rather inaccurate because, according to comments on the Secret Blogging Seminar, Misha appealed the charges and they were overturned quite quickly, but he’s still banned from travelling until the FSB clear the decision. The Moscow Times article is worth reading anyway, because Igor Pugach seems like a fearfully quirky character.

What an odd situation.

More links:

Misha Verbitsky’s blog posts about the beard saga

The proceedings of the original court case

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