Bacardi Asks US Revoke License Given To Cuba

February 17, 2016

As part of continued efforts over the Havana Club rum matter, Bermuda-headquartered Bacardi has requested the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC] reverse its decision to grant the Cuba government a license to renew and maintain the Havana Club trademark registration in the United States.

“In its submission to OFAC, regarding License No. CU-2015-323837-1 [License 837-1], Bacardi explains that it – not the Cuban government – is the current and lawful owner of all rights and claims related to the Havana Club trademark in the United States,” the company said.

“That mark was used in conjunction with the Havana Club rum business by the original owner, Jose Arechabala S.A. [JASA], which founded the company in 1878 in Cuba. JASA sold Havana Club rum in the United States after the brand was created in 1934 until the business was forcibly confiscated by the Cuban government in 1960.

“Bacardi obtained its ownership interest in the Havana Club mark through a lawful and OFAC-licensed transaction with JASA. Bacardi has been selling Havana Club rum in the United States since the mid-1990s.

“In fact, Bacardi is the only entity authorized to sell Havana Club rum in the United States, and has an application pending in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office [USPTO] to register the Havana Club trademark on rum [Application No. 74/572,667] which has been on hold because of Cuba’s registration and its pending cancellation.”

“OFAC’s decision to grant the license to the Cuban government reverses it prior decision in 2006 to deny that very same license and contradicts its own defense of that decision in various U.S. courts,” says Eduardo Sánchez, senior vice president and general counsel, Bacardi.

“OFAC has acted in violation of well-settled U.S. law and Congressional intent in a covert action that is unjustified in law. We request that OFAC revoke License 837-1 retroactively to prevent Cuba – and its business partner Pernod Ricard – from their continued trafficking in illegally confiscated property.”

“OFAC’s decision to authorize Cuba’s renewal of the stolen Havana Club mark encourages exactly the type of joint venture that Congress plainly intended to discourage and makes it easier for Cuba and its business partner to facilitate traffic in stolen property for prohibited purpose,” adds Sánchez. “OFAC should comply with the letter and spirit of U.S. law and revoke Cuba’s license.”

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