SPAIN: Bacardi to appeal Havana Club ruling

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Bacardi is looking to take its bid for the Spanish rights to Havana Club rum to the country's Supreme Court.

The privately-owned spirits giant told just-drinks today (9 March) that it would continue its battle after an appeals court in Madrid threw out its claim to the Havana Club trademark in Spain.

Bacardi said the Madrid court has sent the company's appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court for review.  It said the appeals court judge had backed the notion that the company's case needed to be decided on its merits.

"This is a critical ruling since the other side had challenged the legitimacy of Bacardi's right to bring a claim," Bacardi said.

The battle for the right to use the Havana Club name in Spain is the latest legal skirmish between Bacardi and French drinks giant Pernod Ricard over the rum brand.

Yesterday, Havana Club International, a joint venture between Cuba and Pernod Ricard, said the appeals court had ruled that Bacardi's claims over its rights to Havana Club were "unfounded".

"The court recognised that the prestige of the Havana Club trademark was the direct and sole result of the long-standing commercial efforts and investments by Havana Club Holding," Havana Club International said.

Pernod and the Cuban government formed Havana Club Holding in 1993 to take the brand into export markets worldwide.

A spokesman for Pernod told just-drinks that the French group was "very happy" with the Spanish ruling. He said the appeals court had recognised that, although the Arechabala family, who had sold their purported rights to Havana Club, had registered the trademark in Spain in the 1930s, they had failed to use the trademark in the country. The spokesman said the court had also recognised that the Arechabala family had never sold Cuban rum in Spain.

The spokesman said: "Bacardi wants a decision in its favour because it is trying to damage a competitor who has built the brand."

Spain is one of the two biggest markets for Havana Club outside Cuba, the spokesman added.

The links between Bacardi and the Arechabala family began in 1994 when the two formed an "alliance". According to Bacardi, three years later it bought the Havana Club mark from the Arechabala family for an undisclosed sum.

Bacardi claims the Arechabalas were the rightful owners of the Havana Club trademark and that the family's assets were seized by the Cuban government after the Cuban revolution of 1959.

Bacardi said the Spanish appeals court had in fact supported the claim that the Arechabalas were the "legitimate owner" of the brand at the time the assets were seized. The court, Bacardi added, recognised that "confiscation is not a valid right to ownership".

Bacardi will now look to Spain's highest court to re-evaluate its case.

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