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Bacardi fires latest salvo in Havana Club rum battle with Cuba

February 1, 2016

MIAMI — Bacardi filed suit Monday against the United States demanding an explanation of its decision to let Cuba sell Havana Club rum in the United States once the U.S. trade embargo against the communist island is lifted.

That green light, granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is illegal, Bacardi said in the latest salvo of a long-running legal battle that goes back to the Cuban revolution of 1959.

Bacardi, which had made rum in Cuba under its own name and that of Havana Club, left the island in 1960 after Fidel Castro came to power.

Bacardi filed the new request under the Freedom of Information Act and wants all documents, communications and files that were created, used, or maintained by U.S. authorities to grant Cuba the Havana Club trademark registration.

Bacardi makes rum in Puerto Rico and markets it in the United States and elsewhere.

The USPTO decision was made in violation of the language and spirit of U.S. law, Bacardi said in a statement.

“The American people have the right to know the truth of how and why this unprecedented, sudden and silent action was taken by the United States government to reverse long-standing U.S. and international public policy and law that protects against the recognition or acceptance of confiscations of foreign governments,” Bacardi senior vice president and general counsel Eduardo Sánchez said.

Bacardi insists it bought the rights to Havana Club from the Arechabala family, which made the rum until its distillery was seized by the Cuban government after the revolution.

Bacardi said it will pursue all legal options to defend it position in the Havana Club legal wrangle, which has dragged on for decades.

In 1976, Cuba, which also continued to produce Havana Club, was able to register the trademark in the United States. But it lost the trademark in 2006 when it could not present the necessary license to the Treasury Department.

Cuba and the United States restored diplomatic relations in July of last year. Cuba received special permission from the U.S. government in January and was able to file a new request for the Havana Club trademark registration.

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