Pernod Ricard leads rum war at the Havana Club
MIAMI, Aug 18, 2006 (AFP) - The well-dressed crowd swayed to tropical jazz and the Cuba-chic mood was tinged with a touch of nostalgia as exiles sipped Havana Club, a famed rum now at the center of a bitter trademark dispute.
Cuban-born jazzman Arturo Sandoval belted out notes at his Miami club as bar staff concocted Cuba Libres, mojitos and other Cuban cocktails, pouring out liberal measures of the rum many associate with sultry Havana nights.
Havana Club, which had been absent from US markets for decades because of a trade embargo on communist-run Cuba, is now making a comeback as a Puerto Rican rum.
Bacardi, which produces the new incarnation of the old favorite, insists its product is the real stuff, based on the original recipe it bought from the original owners after the communist government seized their assets in Cuba.
But Pernod Ricard — which sells Cuban-produced Havana Club around the world, except in the United States, in a joint venture with the Cuban government — says Bacardi has no rights to the brand and is misleading customers.
The French company filed a trademark infringement lawsuit this week in a bid to force Bacardi to take its version of Havana Club off the shelves.
The two liquor giants have been locked in a decades-old dispute over who owns the US rights to the brand.
The roots of the rum punch-up date back to 1960, when Fidel Castro’s government seized Cuba’s rum industry, then dominated by the family-run Bacardi and Havana Club companies.
The Cuban government has continued producing rum under the Havana Club label and registered it in the United States in 1976, after the Arechabala family that founded the brand let its trademark lapse.
But Bacardi bought the Havana Club brand name and recipe from the Arechabala family in the 1990s and produced the rum in Puerto Rico for three years until Cuba and Pernod Ricard filed a lawsuit.
After years of bitter litigation, the US patent office denied authorization for the Franco-Cuban venture to renew registration of its trademark earlier this month.
Bacardi promptly relaunched its version of Havana Club in the United States, premiering it this week in Miami, which is home to a large Cuban exile community and attracts large numbers of sun-and-fun-seeking tourists.
Pernod Ricard responded by filing its trademark infringement lawsuit.
“In line with its policy of taking action against counterfeiting, Pernod Ricard will vigorously defend its rights and those of the consumer,” the French company said, insisting only the Cuban-produced rum is the real stuff.
Bacardi begs to differ.
“We own the Havana Club trademark,” says Marta Maria Garcia, marketing manager for Bacardi’s Havana Club.
“We are happy to bring to the United States the original recipe created by the original owners,” she said at Sandoval’s club, where two shapely models handed out samples of the drink.
Sandoval drew cheers from the crowd as he hailed Havana Club’s US comeback during his show.
“Fidel had stolen the name, as he stole so many things,” said Sandoval, a jazz trumpeter and pianist who fled Cuba and was granted asylum in the United States in 1990.
Subject: French news