Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Interesting Issues Over Cigar and Rum Brands May Come Up With a Thawing of Relations Between Cuba and the United States

Lifting of the Cuba embargo by the United States could create disputes over rights to the Cohiba brand.  Cohiba is one of the biggest brands for Cuban cigar.  There is another Cohiba brand made in the Dominican Republic which is the one which finds its way to American retailers.  The owner of the Dominican Republic brand is Scandinavian Tobacco Group ("STG").  STG recently won a trademark dispute with the owner of the Cohiba brand in Cuba, Cubatabaco, in the United States.  It took STG 16 years, but it finally succeeded in obtaining the rights to the brand, Cohiba, in the United States.  As a result, the distributor for Cubatabaco (a state tobacco company of Cuba), must sell its "Cohiba" cigars in the United States under other brands.  

A similar issue arises in the rum arena.  Bacardi & Co. ("Bacardi") began as a Cuban company, but left Cuba after the Castro government nationalized its operations.  The rights to the brand in Cuba (and elsewhere) belonged to the Havana Club.  Following its departure from Cuba, Bacardi fought with Cuban and French spirits maker, Pernard Ricard SA over the rum brand owned by Havana Club.  In 1997, Bacardi purchased Havana Club and then obtained a series of rulings in United States courts giving it the rights to the Bacardi brand in the United States.  Pernard Ricard will distribute rum to the United States under a different brand--and will market its new brand as the "genuine" Cuban rum in Cuba for those who visit Cuba and wish to bring some home.  Meanwhile, Bacardi indicated that it may consider a return to Cuba if there is improvement in the relations between Cuba and the United States and an improvement in human rights in Cuba. 

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