Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bacardi seeks global rights to Havana Club

Bacardi seeks global rights to Havana Club
By Jenny Wiggins in London
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: August 9 2006 07:49 | Last updated: August 9 2006 10:29

Bacardi plans to fight for the rights to the Havana Club rum brand in global markets after a US trademark ruling helped it re-launch the brand in the US following a long dispute with the Cuban government and Pernod Ricard.

The US patent and trademark office last week ruled that the Cuban government, which sells rum under the Havana Club brand name in partnership with Pernod Ricard in dozens of countries, could not claim any rights to the brand in the US because its registration of the brand had expired.

Bacardi claims that the ruling by the US trademark office means that it now owns the Havana Club brand, and that this will help it challenge the rights to the brand in globalmarkets.

"We will look at other [brand rights] challenges on a market by market basis," Bacardi said. The company owns the brand inKyrgyzstan, Croatia and Tajikistan; has rights pending in India, Nicaragua, the Bahamas and the US; and is challenging rights to the brand in Canada and Spain.

The ruling comes after 10 years of acrimony between the Cuban government and Bacardi. The Havana Club brand was created by a Cuban family, the Arechabalas, in 1935, and was sold in the US until the 1950s.

The family left the country during the Cuban Revolution under Fidel Castro in the 1960s, and sold the brand to Bacardi in the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, the Cuban government registered the Havana Club trademark in the US in 1976, and in 1993 formed a joint venture with Pernod Ricard to sell the brand internationally. It was not sold in the US due to the country's trade embargo with Cuba.

Bacardi, whose Bacardi rum vies with Diageo's Smirnoff vodka as the top-selling spirit in the US, started selling rum under the Havana Club name in the US in 1995, and was sued by Cuba and Pernod Ricard.

Bacardi stopped sales while it dealt with the litigation, which went to the Supreme Court.

The court ruled that the Cuban-French joint venture had no rights to the brand in the US.

Bacardi then entered a second set of lawsuits relating to the registration of the brand. It is still trying to register the Havana Club trademark in its own name.

Rum is one of the fastest growing spirits markets in the US, with annual sales volumes growing at between 5 and 7 per cent.


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