Cuba’s Cohiba Trademark Theft Gets OK
General Cigar of Virgina can market bogus Cuban cigars in US
HAVANA TIMES — The US embargo on Cuba has made possible the continued theft of the island’s famous Cohiba Cigar trademark by the US firm General Cigars.
The United States Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) closed the 16-year effort of Cubatabaco to defend its Cohiba trademark by stating that since Cubatabaco cannot sell its cigars or operate in any way in the US, General Cigars can legally sell [imitation] Cohiba cigars under the same name.
The Appeal Board noted that under the US embargo, Cubatabaco cannot obtain legal status in the US and thus has no right to defend itself in the trademark dispute, noted Cubadebate.com.
According to about.com, General Cigar received its first registration of the Cohiba trademark in the U.S. in 1981, and again in 1992. The company has sold its Dominican Cohiba cigar in the U.S. since the early 1980s.
Cohiba is the most famous cigar trademark in the world, notes Cubadebate. It was created in 1966 and registered in 1969.
US Federal Courts have also allowed the trademark theft of the famous Cuban rum brand Havana Club by the Bacardi Co.
The trademark wars are one of the many side issues that would have to be resolved if the US embargo on Cuba is ever lifted, along with other property disputes.
9 thoughts on “Cuba’s Cohiba Trademark Theft Gets OK”
Most of Bacardi’s various products are of a completely different style of rum than Havana Club. Bacardi made their name in Cuba and around the world by producing a light, white rum designed to be mixed in drinks like the daiquiri and the Cuba Libre. Comparing a white rum to an aged dark rum is like comparing apples to oranges, or a white wine to cognac. As far as white rums go, Bacardi Superior is a perfectly fine product.
When their property was seized by Castro, the Bacardis switched all production to their distilleries in Mexico & Puerto Rico, where they make the same light white rum. Since then they’ve added amber and dark rums of ordinary quality, nothing special. Their flavoured rums are hideous concoctions, in my opinion. However, they do make a very nice aged dark rum, Bacardi 8, which compares favourably with other aged Caribbean rums, including the Cuban version of Havana Club.
For the record, the Havana Club product produced in Cuba, in a joint enterprise with Pernod-Ricard, is not the “original” Havana Club. That original brand and the factory built by the Arechabala family, was also stolen by Castro in 1960. In the 1990’s, the Arechabala family sold the rights to the brand name “Havana Club” to Bacardi, along with the original recipe. Therefore, the closest thing to the original Havana Club is the product distilled by Bacardi and sold under that brand name in Florida.
Don’t worry, once connoisseurs of fine tobacos try one of these bogus General Cigar stogies, they’ll know the difference. Unfortunately, many folks who’ve never had the opportunity of trying a real Cohiba won’t know any better. Ditto the swill sold by Bacardi Family here in the States. There’s no comparison to the real Havana Club.
According to this history at wiki:
…the Cohiba brand did not exist until 1968 when the Cuban government began manufacturing a line of cigars under that name. These cigars were reserved for Fidel and the top cadre of the Revolution. Only later did they offer the Cohiba brand for sale to the public (and tourists).
Tobacco farms and cigar factories all across Cuba were seized by the revolution.
Correction: The “Havana Club” brand was originally the property of the Arechabala family who established a distillery by that name in Cuba in 1878. The Bacardi family established their own distillery (in 1862) and sold their product under the brand “Bacardi”.
After the revolution, Fidel Castro seized both distilleries and the Cuban state took over production from the plants. Bacardi successfully prevented Castro from using the Bacardi brand. The rum produced in Bacardi’s stolen property is labelled “Caney” and it is a decidedly low quality rum compared to the original Bacardi standards.
The Arechabala family was unable to stop the Cuban government from using the Havana Club brand. When Castro signed a partnership with the French firm Pernod-Ricard the agreement included marketing the Havana Club brand stolen by Fidel. At this point, the Bacardi family approached the Arechabala family and bought the rights to the Havana Club brand and trademark, as well as the original recipe, from the original and rightful owners.
Ironically, the Bacardi family had supported Castro in his fight against the Batistas, even sending money and weapons to the rebels in the mountains. This counted for nothing to Fidel once he held power.
You can read more about this history in Tom Gjelten’s excellent book: http://www.amazon.com/Bacardi-Long-Fight-Cuba-Biography/dp/0143116320
I love the way everyone blames the U.S. for this. True the courts found that since Cohiba of Cuba cannot do business in the U.S. they have no right to fight the trademark there. That should end with the end of the embargo. The problem I see is that General Cigars is a Swiss owned company. Why aren’t they the ones ultimately responsible for this? Why is the United States the one blamed? Who’s the greedy party here taking advantage of the letter of the law when the morality of the issue is really what should be considered?
If I am correct the trademark was owned by people whose rights wre expropriated without compensation in and by Cuba.
Expropriation in violation of international law does not warrant recognition.
The use of the name ‘Cohiba’ by General Cigar should not be compared to the adjudicated case regarding the name ‘Havana Club’ by Bacardi. In the latter case, it was actually Bacardi who used the Havana Club label first. The Castros stole that name for their flagship brand rum from the Bacardi organization. As long as there is no chance that the original Cohiba cigar would have to compete with the General Cigar version in the same market, the use of the name in the US market is justified and precedented.
It just seems ironic to me that the country that dispossessed trademarks from their the true Cuban owners (e.g., Havana Club, etc.) now has the temerity to complain about trademark theft.
So the biggest thief, the Castro Oligarchy is complaining that they cannot sell their stolen brand and goods in the bad imperialist country the U.S.A.? The height of hypocrisy and cynicism!
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