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Bacardi fights back against Havana Club ruling

Bacardi has filed a Freedom of Information request to bring to light the rationale behind a decision to hand the Havana Club rum trademark to the Cuban government, giving Pernod Ricard the right to sell the brand in the US.

Bacardi has been selling its Puerto Rico-made Havana Club rum in the US since 1994, while the Cuban-made brand has been sold elsewhere by Pernod Ricard.

French drinks group Pernod Ricard has been unable to launch Cuba-made Havana Club in the US due to a trade embargo between US and Cuba, which has been in place since 1961 when the Cuban revolution led to communism.

Bacardi meanwhile has been selling its own brand of Havana Club rum, made in Puerto Rico, in the US since the mid-1990s. The group acquired the US rights from Havana Club’s founders, the Arechabala family, who had fled Cuba in the 1960s after the brand was seized by their country’s government. Bacardi won a US trademark dispute in 2012 allowing it to sell the brand originating from Cuba but produced in Puerto Rico in the US, overcoming the longstanding trade embargo. Pernod Ricard meanwhile continued to own the Havana Club trademark in the rest of the world as part of a joint venture with the Cuban government.

However following improved relations between the US and Cuba, last week the US Foreign Assets Control Office gave approval to renew the rights to sell the brand in the States to the Pernod/Cuban partnership, lifting a longstanding trade embargo without warning.

Describing itself as “shocked and very concerned” about the decision, Bacardi is now seeking all documents, communications and files that were created, used, or maintained by the US Patent & Trademark Office, Office of Foreign Assets Control, US Department of State, Executive Office of the President of the United States, the National Security Council, US Department of Treasury and/or any third parties to make the decision.

“We are filing this Freedom of Information Act request because 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 US. and international public policy and law that protects against the recognition or acceptance of confiscations of foreign governments,” said Eduardo Sánchez, senior vice president and general counsel at Bacardi.

“When the highest and most powerful government agencies are not transparent about critical changes in policy, the public has the right and the responsibility to use FOIA requests and other tools at their disposal to hold the government accountable for its actions.”

The ruling could cost Bacardi around 4,000,000 case sales per year and is likely to lead to add further fuel to an already long-running legal battle between Bacardi and Pernod Ricard.

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