As President Obama attempted to normalize relations with Cuba toward the end of his presidency, a byproduct was the renewal of a contested trademark registration on Havana Club by Cubaexport, an agency of the Cuban government. Florida lawmakers are now hoping that a more US-centric Trump administration can help them roll this back.
The Havana Club trademark has a long and complicated history. At its heart, Havana Club is a valuable rum brand. The trademark has been registered since the mid-1970s in the US by Cubaexport, which is run by the Cuban government. Control of the brand in the US has been disputed however, by the popular rum manufacturer, Bacardi. Bacardi claims that it acquired the Havana Club brand from the Archebala family in Cuba in 1997 and that any rights to the brand obtained by the Cuban government were obtained illegitimately through confiscation. Bacardi claims that the Cuban government illegally confiscated the Archebala rum business, and the Havana Club brand, after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. Bacardi wants the US government to strip Cubaexport of its trademark registration and grant the rights to Bacardi.
After the Obama administration pushed for Cuban normalization, Cubaexport was able to renew its trademark registration on Havana Club in January of 2016, much to the dismay of Bacardi. Now, Florida lawmakers are pushing to get the trademark rights for Bacardi. 25 Florida Congressional representatives issued a letter to the departments of State and Treasury regarding their 2016 decision asking them to revise it and reexamine the Omnibus Appropriation Acts of 1998, which stipulates that the Office for Foreign Assets Control should investigate whether the intellectual property was fraudulently obtained by confiscation. The State Department argues that its decision to grant Cubaexport a license to renew its trademark registration fell in line with the new Cuban foreign policy under President Obama.
It will be interesting to see how the Trump Administration will deal with this political trademark issue. The Trump message has been America and American businesses first. This Havana Club trademark issue will be a definitive measure to see where the Trump White House stands.
The Havana Club trademark dispute is another example of the intricacies of securing trademark rights in a global economy. If you need assistance securing your trademark rights or have questions about the trademark process, please contact the trademark attorneys at Trademark Access. Let our experience protect you.