Official Statement - Spain’s Supreme Court Upholds Fundamental Arguments of Bacardi in Havana Club Rum Case

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  • Spanish Supreme Court supports merits of Bacardi appeal
  • New legal avenues for Bacardi case planned due to ruling on legal technicality only
  • Spanish Court rules Havana Club Holdings (a joint venture between Cuban state and Pernod Ricard) “does not deserve to be considered a good faith third party purchaser of the Spanish Havana Club trademark”
  • Spanish Court says Havana Club Holdings Spanish registration of the Havana Club trademark violated Spanish public law
  • Bacardi has won every legal case in United States on Havana Club
  • Bacardi continues to sell Havana Club rum in United States

Bacardi Limited, the largest privately held spirits company in the world, plans the next legal move to protect its legitimate ownership and trademark rights to the Havana Club brand in Spain. The Company praises the Spanish Supreme Court for recognizing nearly all the legal merits of the appeal on the legitimacy of Bacardi’s rights and registration of the Havana Club rum trademark in Spain, but is disappointed that the court ruled in favor of Havana Club Holdings on the legal technicality of a statute of limitations.

The high court of Spain ruled that the transfer of the trademark registration of Havana Club rum in Spain by Cuba and its partners violated Spanish public law. The court ruled that Havana Club Holdings “does not deserve to be considered a good faith third party purchaser of the Spanish trademark of Havana Club,” and noted that the company Jose Arechabala, S.A. (and Bacardi as its successor) was illegally deprived in Spain of the Spanish trademark registration for Havana Club. The court however did not restore the Spanish trademark registration to Bacardi only on the grounds of a technicality involving the statute of limitations for a claim.

“This decision clearly supports and recognizes the rights of the original owners of HAVANA CLUB, the Arechabalas and Bacardi, as its rightful successor,” said Séamus McBride, President and CEO of Bacardi Limited.

It is critical to note that Spain’s high court ruled that Spanish law does not recognize the validity of the acquisition by Cuba and its partners of the Spanish HAVANA CLUB trademark registration on the basis of the confiscation of HAVANA CLUB ordered by the Cuban State in 1960.

Bacardi has and will continue to defend its position in the wake of ongoing and inaccurate allegations by Havana Club Holdings surrounding the legitimacy of Bacardi’s rights and ownership of HAVANA CLUB rum.

Bacardi, Jose Arechabala, S.A. and members of the Arechabala family sued Havana Club Holdings, Havana Rum and Liquors, S.A., Cubaexport and the Republic of Cuba in 1999 in Mardrid’s Court of 1st Instance No. 54 to invalidate the Cuban entities’ transfer of the Havana Club trademark in Spain from Jose Arechabala, S.A.

As Bacardi and Jose Arechabala, S.A. have asserted for the past 12 years, and Spanish courts have not contested, Bacardi legally owns the rights to the Spanish HAVANA CLUB rum brand, having purchased the trademark from the original legal owners, creators and proprietors of the brand.

The Arechabala family created Havana Club rum in Cuba in 1935 and sold their rum in Spain and other countries. In 1959, the Arechabala’s Havana Club brand and other assets were confiscated by the Cuban government without compensation.

In the early 1990s, Cuba signed an agreement with French based Pernod Ricard to exploit the confiscated brand globally through a joint venture called Havana Club Holdings.

The Provincial Court or Madrid ruled that confiscation is not a valid right to ownership for Spanish brands. Trademarks are territorial and civilized nations around the world do not recognize claims to ownership of trademarks based on foreign confiscation. It is important to note that the Arechabalas never gave up their rights to the brand and were seeking to revitalize it, but lacked the financial backing to do so, because of the illegal confiscation of their company and personal assets by the Cuban government. Bacardi purchased the rights to the HAVANA CLUB trademark from the creators and original owners, the Arechabala family.

Bacardi has won all U.S. court cases relating to the rights to use the HAVANA CLUB brand, up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Most recently in April 2010, a U.S. federal court also recognized that Bacardi “acquired any remaining rights to Havana Club, as well as the recipe from the Arechabala family. The First Amendment protects Bacardi’s ability to accurately portray where its rum was historically made.” U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson also wrote Pernod Ricard USA showed “no evidence that today's Havana Club rum product (made by Bacardi) differs from the original pre-revolutionary Cuban rum in any significant respect.” In her 22-page ruling, Judge Robinson also found that Bacardi's HAVANA CLUB rum “has a Cuban heritage,” derived from a family recipe first used in Cuba around 1930.

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