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US: Havana Club appeal ruling leaves Bacardi, Pernod Ricard upbeat

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  • Pernod Ricard "encouraged" by Appeals Court ruling
  • Bacardi "thrilled" by Havana Club decison
  • Pernod, Cubaexport to seek rehearing

Both Bacardi and Pernod Ricard have made positive noises about the latest ruling in the US on their long-running row over the Havana Club trademark.

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The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has today (29 March) ruled that the US had been legally entitled to refuse Pernod's Havana Club co-owner, Cubaexport, the renewal of its trademark rights in the Havana Club name with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The appeals court, which upheld the ruling made in the US two years ago, backed the original decision by two judges to one.

Pernod appeared to take comfort by the “dissenting opinion” voiced by one of the three judges, Judge Silberman. The French company professed itself “encouraged” by the judge's comments.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s decision,” said Pernod's General Counsel, Ian FitzSimons. “but are encouraged by the dissenting opinion of Judge Silberman who stated: “The court’s opinion, in my view, is unsound doctrinally, both with regard to principles of statutory interpretation and to basic tenets of administrative law”.”

Bacardi, meanwhile, said that it was “thrilled” by the ruling. When contacted by just-drinks, Patricia Neal, a spokesperson for Bacardi USA said that the company “applauds” the news. “The effect of the … decision is that the Cuban government’s registration is expired and cancelled,” Neal said. “The US courts have also consistently ruled that … (the Pernod/Cubaexport JV) Havana Club Holding has no rights to the Havana Club trademark in the US.

“With this ruling, the US reaffirms the traditional principle that confiscation of trademarks in one country has no effect on another. Cuban confiscation of trademarks without compensation to the original owners does not extend to US trademarks.

“We are thrilled with the decision of the US Court of Appeals. As we have maintained all along, Bacardi is the legitimate owner of the brand.”

The international arm of Havana Club Holding, which is not allowed to sell its Havana Club rum brand in the US due to the country's embargo of Cuban products, said that it will “seek a rehearing by the full Court of Appeals”.

To read the full ruling, click here.

Bacardi's statement can be viewed here.

For Pernod's official statement, click here.


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