Cuba accuses US of brand infringement

Updated: 2012-05-18 13:18


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HAVANA - Cuba on Thursday accused the United States of violating international laws protecting brands and trademarks after the US Supreme Court decided to grant multinational rum producer Bacardi rights to use the Havana Club name.

Citing a release from Cuba's Foreign Ministry, official daily Granma said Cuba blamed the US Office of Foreign Assets Control, part of the US Treasury Department, for preventing the Cuban company from "defending its right" before the US Patents and Trademarks Office.

"The Foreign Ministry demands the government of the United States immediately return the license that allows Cuban company Cubaexport to renew the Havana Club brand," the official release said.

The ruling issued by the US Supreme Court is a "serious violation" of international commitments to the protection of industrial property, which have also been signed by the United States, said the statement.

"If the US government does not intervene, it alone is responsible for the theft of the Havana Club brand from its rightful owner, the Cubaexport company, and will be also responsible for any negative consequences that might arise from this event in the reciprocal protection of industrial property," the Cuban ministry stated.

The decision by the US Supreme Court appeared to put an end to a long legal battle that saw Cubaexport and its French associate Pernod Ricard struggle to retain their rights to use the name Havana Club and win the rights to sell rum in the US market.

The Cuban-French joint venture has been disputing for decades with Bermuda-based Bacardi, which sells rum made in Puerto Rico in the United States under the same brand name.

The Havana Club brand was created in Cuba in 1878, but in 1935 the founding family, Arrechavala, sold the patent to Bacardi, which at the time was based in Cuba.

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the government of Fidel Castro nationalized the company against the wishes of the owners, who moved the operation to Puerto Rico.

The US trade embargo against Cuba prevents the island nation from selling its goods in US territory. Cuban authorities registered the Havana Club name in the United States in 1976, hoping the blockade would end soon.

The Cuban foreign ministry stressed that "despite the bilateral conflict, the Cuban government respects, even now, over 5,000 US brands and patents registered in Cuba."