The Rum Wars

"A glass of rum" by Linus Bohman licensed under cc-by-2.0
Both Bacardi and Cubaexport produce “Havana Club” rum and have been vying for exclusive rights to this name for the last two decades.

Bacardi believes they have the right to the trademark as they have been producing their “Havana Club” rum, since 1995, based on the original recipe concocted by the Cuban Arechabala family in 1934. This family made and sold their spirit in Cuba and the US. However, the Cuban government took possession of all distilleries after the 1959 revolution and both the Arechabala and the Bacardi families were forced into exile.  

Bacardi continued making their spirits from their Mexican and Puerto Rican distilleries, eventually acquiring the Havana Club recipe in 1994.

On the other hand, Pernod Ricard claims that  Cubaexport are the rightful owners of the trademark. The French company has been distributing Cubaexport’s  “Havana Club” rum  
since the two companies formed a partnership in 1993.

However, when Bacardi  tried to register a trademark for their new brand they discovered that the original trademark had expired and that a new registration had been accepted  in 1974 from the Cuban government for their spirits company, Cubaexport.

Although their trademark was due to expire, in January 2016 Cubaexport was given the upper hand in the situation when the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control allowed their “Havana Club” trademark to be renewed. Previously the government-owned company had not been able to complete the process and pay the fees for registration due to the US trade embargo.

This embargo currently prevents Cubaexport from distributing their rum in the US but when it is lifted, both Bacardi and Cubaexport will want exclusive rights to the name, hence the trademark dispute.

When registering a trademark you should always complete a comprehensive search prior to applying for your chosen name to ensure that it is available in your chosen marketplace and to reduce the likelihood of infringing on an existing trademark. Furthermore, a trademark is a worthwhile investment as it will protect your brand and allow you to enforce your trademark rights over other companies that may infringe upon your mark. In this case, Bacardi would have been better off securing the trademark rights to the 'Havana Club' brand before they began trading to ensure their brand's protection.

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