2 February 2016Patents

Bacardi issues FOI request over ‘Havana Club’ trademark approval

Drinks maker Bacardi has demanded information from the US government on its decision to grant a trademark renewal for the term ‘Havana Club’ to a Cuban government-owned company.

According to Bacardi, which has filed a freedom of information (FOI) request with the US Department of the Treasury, the decision violated “the language and spirit” of US law.

Last month, WIPR reported that the US Patent and Trademark Office reversed a decision that banned Cuba’s government from marketing Havana Club rum in the US.

The approval will allow Cubaexport, the Cuban government’s export company, to sell Havana Club-branded rum in the US once the trade embargo is lifted.

Although plans are in place to lift the long-standing embargo, it is not known when that will be.

Cubaexport was initially granted a renewal of an earlier postponed mark until January 27, 2016. An application to renew it until 2026 has also been submitted.

But the decision angered Bacardi. The rum maker has sold Havana Club in the US since 1994 after it acquired the rights from Havana Club’s founding family, who fled Cuba around 1960.

The rum is made in neighbouring Puerto Rico due to the Cuban embargo.

In 1976, Cuba was granted a US trademark for ‘Havana Club’ but it was taken away by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in 2006.

Cuba pursued the matter all the way to the US Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case in 2012.

In a statement yesterday, February 1, Bacardi said it wanted to see all documents, communications and files that were created, used, or maintained in relation to the ‘Havana Club’ trademark registration.

Eduardo Sánchez, senior vice president and general counsel, Bacardi, said: “We are filing this FOI request because the American people have the right to know the truth of how and why this unprecedented, sudden and silent action was taken by the US government to reverse long-standing US and international public policy and law.”

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More on this story

22 February 2016   The US Patent and Trademark Office has accepted an application to renew a trademark for the term ‘Havana Club’ until 2026.