September 12, 2016 — At the request of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Rick Wilson, senior vice president for external affairs, with Bacardi, appeared as a witness at a Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Congressional hearing on February 11 on “Resolving Issues with Confiscated Property in Cuba, Havana Club Rum and Other Property.”
The Committee is looking into the sudden reversal of U.S. policy by the Office of Foreign Asset Control and the U.S. Patent & Trademark office by allowing Cuba to renew and keep the Havana Club trademark in the United States.
Bacardi, the largest privately owned spirits company in the world, acquired the name and the recipe from the founding Arechabala family and has been marketing Havana Club Rum made in Puerto Rico since 1994 in the United States.
The Cuban Assets Control Regulations specifically prohibit all transactions, unless specifically authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury, involving property, including trademarks, in which Cuba or any Cuban national has any interest. However, a loophole allowed the Cuban government to register and renew trademarks owned by private businesses in Cuba that the Castro Government had confiscated. Congress closed the loophole, which is known as Section 211 denying Cuba’s claims to illegally confiscated property in the United States.
Mr. Wilson of Bacardi reminded the House Judiciary Committee that the founders of Havana Club, the Arechabala family had their business and well-known mark seized at gunpoint by the Cuban government which, without any interruption in the business, began making and selling rum under the Havana Club brand. The brand is sold worldwide by Pernod Ricard of France.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) commented, “The Cuban government, led by Fidel Castro, has stolen billions in property, including homes and businesses, owned by Americans and American investors. Perhaps the most recognized case is that of the Arechabala Family liquor business, which had its trademark for Havana Club Rum seized by the Cuban government and then licensed to another company against the family’s wishes. As the Obama Administration looks to improve relations with Cuba, important questions remain about how these claims will be satisfied.”
Internet Subcommittee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Ca)said, “Integrity in our trademark system is fundamental to property rights in the United States. The decision to grant the Havana Club trademark to the Cuban government decades after it was effectively stolen during the revolution is an act that deserves scrutiny by the Committee.”
Read about Bacardi’s recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request here.