Monday, November 30, 2015

Along With US - Cuba Detente Comes a Battle Over Trademarks

     The long standing battle over the Havana Club trademark is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are cigar, restaurant and American coffee just to name a few that are close of the same names. Despite the United States' 53-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, companies from both countries have continued registering trademarks and patents in the other.   Since 1966 about 1,500 U.S. businesses have filed nearly 6,000 trademarks in Cuba, including renewals, according to data from Saegis, the online trademark database from Thomson Reuters.   I found this article to be quite enlightening as to how the 50 plus year gap in communication has caused some very serious issues that need to be resolved.
     When Julio Manzini decided two years ago to name his small restaurant McDonald's after the famous fast-food chain (MCD.N), he had no idea it could cause any trouble. He has since been frightened into removing the name.   "I don't even know what McDonald's tastes like, I just thought the name was striking, like Shakira or something," he said at the lunch counter of what used to be "Cafeteria La McDonald's Camagueyana" in the Cuban city of Camaguey, about 300 miles (500 km) east of Havana.This month, Manzini stripped "McDonald's" and the famous golden arches from his handcrafted sign as a precaution after he claimed his establishment was visited by a lawyer sent by the company.   The place is now simply called "Cafeteria La Camagueyana."
     His counterfeit McDonald's illustrates a potential battlefront between Cuba and the United States over trademark and intellectual property rights as Cuba's economy opens up to more private enterprise and closer ties with the United States.   The two countries restored diplomatic relations this year after half a century of Cold War hostility and are now working to improve ties. Trademark and intellectual property issues will be on the negotiating table, both sides have said.

     Both have grievances. The United States has denied Cuban companies the same trademark protection enjoyed by brands from everywhere else, forcing marquee names such as Havana Club rum and Cohiba cigars into long, expensive court battles.