Most people are under the impression that we really don’t have any dealings with Cuba, but in fact our continued entanglements with Cuba, on all levels, are many. The first time I went to Cuba, I was surprised to see some recognizable U.S. products, notably Coca-Cola. You can get a Cuba Libre in Cuba (rum and Coke), though, given the symbolism, I don’t think that’s what it’s called in Havana. The Coke I saw, of course, was not manufactured in the U.S., but by a firm in another country that licensed the product.
The U.S. and Cuba have generally respected each other’s trademark laws. Now though we may find ourselves in a trademark war with Cuba, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recently ruled Cuba’s right to the Havana Club name invalid, opening the door for Bacardi to begin selling rum under that name. Bacardi has invested heavily in lobbying for changes in U.S. law to make this possible, notably with large donations to the Republican Party, including the disgraced Tom Delay (R-TX). Last year’s “Bacardi Bill,” sponsored by Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), paved the way for the ruling in Bacardi’s favor.
This of course opens the door for retaliation. There’s nothing to stop Cuba from manufacturing blue jeans, slapping a “Levi’s” label on them, and selling them cheap to anyone who will buy them. There’s a reason we’ve respected Cuban trademark law till now, and why many U.S. firms have registered their own trademarks in Cuba, even if they can’t sell anything there. But for some people, it does not matter – all that matter is sticking it to Fidel. Said Feeney:
And any time I can take a shot at Fidel Castro and his minions, I do it. This is another well-deserved pummeling.So look for Havana Club to show up at a liquor store near you. And keep an eye out for U.S. firms being forced to spend millions to defend their copyrights abroad if Havana decides to retaliate. So goes our ever nutty Cuba policy.