UPDATE: Pernod clarifies Bacardi lawsuit
The French company said today (16 August) that it believes Bacardi is misleading consumers by relaunching a rum called Havana Club when its version is made in Puerto Rico. Pernod also disputes Bacardi's claims to be the owner of the brand in the US.
Pernod yesterday issued a lawsuit against Bacardi following Bacardi's relaunch of Havana Club in the US market earlier this month.
On 3 August, the US Patent and Trademark Office ruled that Cuba's registration of the Havana Club trademark "cancelled/expired." Subsequently, the Cuban government can no longer claim the rights to the trademark in the US, where Cuba's products are blocked anyway by a trade embargo.
While Pernod has no trademark registration and no rights to Havana Club in the US, the French company has owned the trademark in almost all other markets worldwide since it set up a joint venture with the Cuban government in 1993.
"It's a very simple story," a Pernod spokesperson told just-drinks today. "Bacardi has a dominant position in the rum market. The biggest rum market is the US - it's so obvious that they don't want our Havana Club to compete with them in the US. That's it."
The spokesperson went on to say that the Arechabala family, who originally owned the Havana Club brand in Cuba and sold the mark to Bacardi in 1997, had seen sales slide to 15,000 cases in just five markets before the Cuban revolution in 1960, and subsequently chose not to renew its ownership in two markets - Puerto Rico and Spain.
"It is true that, after the revolution some private assets were seized," the spokesperson continued. "But (the Arechabalas) say that they were producing rum not only in Cuba but also in Puerto Rico (and) so to sell the rum again is not misleading. But why, then, did they stop selling it after the revolution? It is the proof that this is a lie.
"We created the Havana Club brand from something that was not existing into an international brand," the spokesperson concluded.
Earlier today, Bacardi dismissed the lawsuit as containing "inaccurate allegations", and said it would "vigorously defend" its position.
"The front of the bottle clearly states that Havana Club is Puerto Rican rum," Bacardi said. "Nowhere on its packaging does it claim to be produced in Cuba. Rum requires no geographic designation, in contrast to Champagne, Scotch, Cognac or Bourbon, which by law must be produced in specific regions."
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