U.S. legislators present bill on trademarks nationalized in Cuba

Cuban rum producers worry about threat of another dismal sugar harvest

HAVANA, March 12th This Thursday, a group of United States legislators presented a bill to prohibit courts from validating any claim of rights of a business or assets nationalized by the Cuban government.The bipartisan bill was presented by congresspeople and senators simultaneously in both houses, according to a dispatch from the EFE news agency.

The initiative is led, among others, by Democrat Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Marco Rubio, a high-ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee for the Western Hemisphere, the source said.

This bill, called No Stolen Trademarks Honored in America, would protect the interests and rights of entrepreneurs whose assets were “illegally seized” by the Cuban government, the legislators said in a statement.

According to Menendez, the proposal would “codify into law” the long-standing U.S. policy of supporting “rightful owners of stolen property,” by ensuring that U.S. courts and the executive branch only recognize the rights of those “whose trademarks were illegally taken” by the Cuban government.

“Any confiscation or seizure of assets by the Cuban regime is and will always be a criminal act that should not be rewarded by the U.S. government,” said the senator, who highlighted the bipartisan support to protect the Americans whom the Cuban government “stole their property.”

The No Stolen Trademarks Honored in America Act would prohibit the use of a trademark when the person using it knows, at the time of acquisition, that the name of the trademark is the same or similar to that of one confiscated by the Cuban government, points out the publication.

The U.S. legislator’s bill give as an example that in 1994 a Cuban rum producer, Cuba Ron, registered the Havana Club trademark in the United States, which bears the name of a trademark in 1959 that was nationalized on the island.

They also cite the Bacardi trademark, one of the world’s largest liquor producers, which bought the trademark and recipe from the descendants of the founder and original owner of Havana Club.

Under this legislation, the legislators point out, Cuba Ron and its partner, the Pernod Ricard group, would not be able to exercise rights related to Havana Club, since the Cuban government allegedly illegally seized the trademark, thus allowing Bacardi to use the trademark “which belongs to it.”

In April of last year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) won a lawsuit filed by Bacardi & Co. after the PTO reaffirmed that Havana Club is Cuban property.

Bacardi and the state-owned Cuba Ron, also known as Cubaexport, have been in litigation in U.S. courts for two decades over the right to use the Havana Club trademark.

“It is the righting of a historical wrong and acknowledgment of the inherent value of an intellectual property and the ownership of one’s ideas and creations,” said Darrell Issa, one of the Republican congressmen who promoted the bill.

Since the now former U.S. President Donald Trump activated Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, lawsuits have been filed in U.S. courts and in other countries against companies that have allegedly benefited from properties nationalized by the Cuban government after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959.

Protected by this provision, a United States federal court ordered four cruise companies to pay nearly 440 million dollars as part of various lawsuits, in which they have been accused of using expropriated docks in Cuba for their businesses.