US: Bacardi claims latest Havana Club round

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Bacardi has claimed a legal victory in its long-running row with Pernod Ricard over the Havana Club trademark in the US.

The two drinks firms have been arguing in court over the name Havana Club for around 13 years. Bacardi, which holds the trademark in the US, Croatia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, has long claimed that the Havana Club brand and associated assets were illegally confiscated from its original owners - the Arechabala family - by the Cuban government during the revolution in the country. The company acquired the recipe and Havana Club brand name from the Arechabalas in 1994.

Earlier today (7 April), Bacardi's US arm said that a district court in Wilmington, Delaware, has ruled this week that the origin of its Havana Club rum is “geographically accurate” as the bottle states that the rum is made in Puerto Rico and that it is based on the original Cuban recipe as created by the Arechabala family.

In a 22-page ruling, US District Judge Sue Robinson ruled that Bacardi's Havana Club “has a Cuban heritage”, derived from a family recipe first used in Cuba around 1930. Judge Robinson also found that Bacardi's labelling is “neither false nor misleading”, as it states that the product is “distilled and crafted in Puerto Rico”.

Pernod's US unit also showed “no evidence that today's Havana Club rum product differs from the original pre-revolutionary Cuban rum in any significant respect”, the judge added.

“We commend the favourable decision of the court as we believe this decision is important in that it protects our ability to accurately portray the Cuban heritage and geographic origin of our rums,” said John Esposito, president and CEO of Bacardi USA. “This is ... another court decision supporting Bacardi’s legitimate and rightful usage of the Havana Club rum trademark and brand.”

No-one was immediately available for comment at Pernod this morning.

Almost exactly a year ago, the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit by Pernod a Havana Club co-owner Cubaexport, claiming the US acted illegally in terminating its trademark rights for the rum brand. In 2006, the US Patent and Trademark Office turned down Cubaexport's application to renew its trademark in the US, leading to the Cuban company launching the lawsuit.

Also in 2006, Bacardi relaunched its Havana Club rum in the US, where an embargo prohibits the sale of Cuban products.

To view the full ruling, click here.

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