French alcoholic beverages company Pernod Ricard SA (RI.FR) said Monday it will launch Havanista-branded Cuban rum in the U.S. if the country lifts its embargo on Cuba, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a decision by a lower court that prevented the company from renewing its Havana Club trademark registration.
Pernod has been fighting a lengthy legal battle in the U.S. concerning the Havana Club trademark. With Havanista, the company appears to be cutting its losses and looking ahead to eventually launching a new Cuban rum product for the U.S. market.
Because of the U.S.'s long-standing embargo on Cuban exports, Pernod hasn't been able to sell its Cuba-made Havana Club rum in the U.S. In the absence of the trademark, competitor Bacardi International Ltd. adopted the Havana Club name for its rum, which is produced in Puerto Rico.
Pernod filed a suit against Bacardi, alleging deceptive advertising of the non-Cuban rum. Although Bacardi's Havana Club sales are minimal, Pernod had hoped to keep the trademark in its domain in case the embargo was lifted. Pernod has distributed Havana Club rum in other countries, in partnership with Cubaexport, since 1993.
A 1998 law in the U.S., known as "Section 211" for the section of the appropriations bill in which it was included, barred the registration of certain Cuban trademarks in the U.S. While Cubaexport argued that the rule applied only to new registrations, the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia upheld a lower court's decision saying the rule also applies to the renewal of previously registered trademarks.
The Supreme Court's decision Monday upheld the Appeal Court's decision, which was made in application of Section 211.
Pernod said that, in light of the Supreme Court's decision, it has registered the trademark Havanista in the U.S.
The brand, which is produced and bottled in Cuba, is a "premium Cuban rum specifically aimed at the U.S. market, which will be launched if the embargo is lifted", Pernod said in a statement.
-By Nadya Masidlover, Dow Jones Newswires; +33 1 4017 1740; firstname.lastname@example.org
(Melissa Korn contributed to this article.)