Are American Companies Stealing Cuban Brands?


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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Cuba has accused the U.S. of allowing American companies to “blatantly steal” some of the island’s most important brand names, following a court decision over the famous Cohiba cigar brand.

Cigars carrying the name of this well-known brand, which was created in Cuba in the 1960s, have been sold in the U.S. since 1981 by General Cigar Co., an American company based in Richmond, Virginia.

But General Cigar’s “Cohibas” are actually manufactured in the Dominican Republic and have no relation to the original Cuban-made Cohibas. The Cuban Cohibas are manufactured in Havana by Cuba Tabaco, a company owned by the Cuban government, but they cannot be sold in the United States because of the five-decades-old trade embargo against Cuba.

Last week, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeals Board said it was okay for General Cigar to sell its Dominican-made Cohibas in the States, overruling a lawsuit that the Cuban government had previously won against General Cigar in U.S. courts.

The appeal board’s reasoning was that Cuba Tabaco has no legal status in the U.S., which means it can’t claim ownership over the Cohiba brand. And since the Cuban trade embargo prevents Cuba Tabaco from doing business in the U.S., this court decision is not likely to change in the coming years.

The state run Cuban website, Cuba Debate, published a scathing article against the court decision on Monday. It claimed that U.S. courts had also used the embargo as a “pretext” to allow Bacardi to “steal” the Havana Club rum brand from the Cuban government.

Bacardi was founded in Cuba in the 1860s but has been based in the U.S. for decades. In 2012, the company won a lengthy legal battle that enabled it to sell its Puerto Rican made “Havana Club” rum in the United States. Cuba’s state owned distillery has been selling Havana Club rum in Cuba and in other countries since the 1980s.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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