Published: Sunday | August 20, 2006
MIAMI, Florida (AP):
Barely a week after a Bacardi rum based on a famed Cuban recipe began arriving in stores, a rival company selling a spirit by the same name has sued to try to pull it from shelves.
Pernod Ricard USA filed its federal complaint over Havana Club rum on Tuesday in Delaware, where Miami-based Bacardi USA is incorporated.
It claims Bacardi does not have the right to use the Havana Club trademark in the U.S. and that consumers are being led to believe the Puerto Rican-produced rum is actually made in Cuba, as the Pernod Ricard version is.
Francisco de la Vega, a spokesman for Pernod Ricard at its international headquarters in Paris, said Wednesday that Bacardi is attempting to keep it from distributing Havana Club in the U.S. should the Cuban embargo be lifted.
"They have a dominant position," de la Vega said, "and they want to keep that dominant position without having to compete."
Bacardi called the allegations distorted and said it would continue to ship the product.
"We will defend our brand in the wake of these inaccurate allegations," company spokeswoman Patricia Neal said.
She said the product's labeling clearly indicates it is Puerto Rican rum.
Pernod Ricard, which has its American headquarters in Purchase, New York, says it could have made a version of its Havana Club rum outside of Cuba to distribute within the U.S. - as Bacardi is doing - but chose not to because it would be misleading.
The dispute over the rum dates back decades and is entangled in property seizures during the Cuban revolution, the trade embargo with the island nation and U.S. trademark law.
As Bacardi explains it, Havana Club rum was developed in 1935 by a family-owned Cuban company, Jose Arechabala SA.
When Fidel Castro rose to power, the family's plant and trademark were seized and the Cuban government began producing rum under the Havana Club label, though Bacardi and the Arechabala family say it was based on a different recipe.
Cuba partnered with Pernod Ricard in the mid-1990s, making Havana Club available around the world, though not in the U.S., where the trade embargo prohibits it.
Bacardi bought the original recipe and the Havana Club name from the Arechabala family in 1994 and offered a rum based on the recipe for three years until an initial lawsuit removed it from shelves.
The U.S. trademark for Havana Club was obtained by Cuba in 1976, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently ruled against government-owned Cuba export, saying it wouldn't renew the registration.
Richard Maulsby, a spokesman for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said an appeal on the trademark decision had not been filed, a prerequisite for legal action. Still, he said, the Havana Club trademark remains registered until any legal or appeals process is complete.
JG: Do not be confused. The new Havana Club distributed by Bacardi IS NOT Cuban rum. It is manufactured in Puerto Rico.