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Bacardi and Pernod Ricard return to battle for Havana Club brand

Published:  18 January, 2016

The US Patent and Trademark Office has reignited the long-running battle between Bacardi Ltd and Pernod Ricard for the Havana Club rum brand by awarding the mark to Pernod Ricard.

Successive US administrations as well as a number of US courts have hitherto consistently sided with Bacardi.

The case appeared settled, but the prospect of the US embargo on trade with Cuba being further loosened or lifted entirely led Pernod Ricard to re-apply for a license.

 Pernod Ricard markets the Cuban rum internationally as part of a 1993 joint venture with the Cuban government.

It is at present unable to sell Havana Club in the US because of the 54-year-long embargo against trade with Cuba initiated by the Kennedy administration.

The Cuban government nationalised the Havana Club distilleries without compensation after seizing power in 1959.

Havana Club, which was the second largest rum in Cuba, had been founded, owned and managed by the Arechabala family.

Bacardi claims it acquired the rights to manufacture and distribute the brand from the Arechabala family in 1994.

However, Pernod Ricard and the Cuban government dispute that claim, arguing that the Arechabala famlly let the trademark lapse in 1973.

In a statement, Bacardi said: "Bacardi is shocked and very concerned by this unprecedented action taken by the United States government.

"In essence, this administration has reversed long-standing US and international public policy and law that protects against the recognition or acceptance of confiscatory actions of foreign governments.

"With this decision, this US administration clearly sends the message that it no longer supports US law and accepted worldwide principles that prevent registration or renewal of trademarks obtained through confiscation, without compensation to the original owners."

The Patent Office does not comment on trademark applications.