Bipartisan Congressional Group Calls for Review of “Havana Club” Trademark
Several members of Congress, led by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (RFla.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (DFla.), have urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to review the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC’s) “unprecedented decision to grant a license to allow Cubaexport, an entity whollyowned by the Cuban government, to renew an expired trademark registration for Havana Club rum in the United States.” The lawmakers express concern about the implications for American intellectual property rights holders because “Cubaexport claims rights to the Havana Club registration through its confiscation, without compensation, of the Jose Arechabala Company” in 1960.
“By allowing the Cuban regime to register the Havana Club trademark, OFAC is out of step with longstanding United States policy, and has set a terrible precedent for American intellectual property rights holders,” Wasserman Schultz said in a March 29, 2017, press release. “I urge OFAC to reverse this misguided decision and send a loud and clear message to the international community that the United States has been and always will be a global leader on intellectual property rights.”
The letter follows years of litigation over the trademark after OFAC revoked Cubaexport’s prior license when it attempted to transfer the rights in 1997. Additional details on Bacardi Ltd.’s Freedom of Information Act request related to OFAC’s 2016 reversal appear in Issue 593 of this Update.