18 January 2016Trademarks

US approves Cuban ‘Havana Club’ trademark

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has approved a trademark for the term ‘Havana Club’, reversing a previous decision that banned the Cuban government from marketing the rum with the term in the US.

The approval, made last week, will allow the Cuban government 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, the Cuban government’s export company, which applied for the trademark, was granted a renewal of an earlier postponed mark until January 27, 2016.  An application to renew it until 2026 has also been submitted.

The acceptance of the trademark is expected to refuel a long-running dispute between the Cuban government and drinks maker Bacardi.

Bacardi has sold Havana Club-branded rum in the US since 1994. It acquired the rights from Havana Club’s founding family, who fled Cuba around 1960.

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

In 1976, Cuba, which also continued to produce Havana Club rum, was granted a US trademark 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.

Rick Wilson, Bacardi’s executive vice president of external affairs, said the company would “take every means available” to fight the decision.

“It’s appalling that this administration goes ahead and grants this licence to the Cuban government for assets that were confiscated,” he said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.

A version of the spirit that is sold outside the US is made by rival drinks maker Pernod Ricard.

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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.
16 March 2016   Drinks maker Bacardi has filed a federal lawsuit demanding the cancellation of the ‘Havana Club’ trademark, which was recently renewed by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
22 February 2017   A US-based apparel company has filed a lawsuit at the US Patent and Trademark Office seeking to cancel two trademarks owned by Havana Club.