March 31

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Havana Club Dispute Back In The Spotlight After Congressional Reps Ask For Administration To Undo Predecessor’s Ruling

The latest turn in a decades long fight over control of the Havana Club trademark for rum came from the Capitol this week.  Congressional leaders from Florida (home of Bacardi’s U.S. headquarters) have sent a letter to the new administration asking for the repeal of an Obama administration decision to allow Cubaexport, the Cuban company claiming the right to use the Havana Club rum mark, to renew the trademark.

For background on this saga of a company run by those fleeing Castro’s regime and the claimed Cuban appropriation of their business by the state, you can’t find a better synopsis than this Associated Press article from 2015 detailing the long saga that led to the current challenge Bacardi is pursuing against Cubaexport over the Havana Club mark.

There is also this 2009 decision by the DC District Court regarding Cubaexport’s challenge to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s initial position (the one reversed by the Obama administration that the legislators now want reversed again by the Trump administration) that Cubaexport should not have been allowed to renew its mark.  

According to the congressional request, the Havana Club controversy is a lodestar for protection of intellectual property of foreign assets seized by foreign governments.  Both Bacardi and Pernod Ricard have a stake in this fight that is once again spilling over into political news.  The District court case over the matter is still ongoing.  While the amount of attention is largely due to the fiscal abilities of the parties involved, the potential for precedent over outcomes for owners challenging matters related to Cuban expropriation from the revolution remains noteworthy.