Category Archives: Stolen Property

Bacardi evokes Cuba’s ‘golden age’ in taking Havana Club rum national

havana club

The Miami Herald

Cuba may have won the latest salvo in the trademark battle over who has the right to use the Havana Club rum brand in the United States, but that isn’t keeping Bacardi from rolling out nationwide distribution of the iconic rum brand with a splashy ad campaign that harkens back to the island’s “golden age.”

Bacardi, which contends it is the rightful owner of the Havana Club name because it purchased it and the rum recipe from the family that made the rum in Cuba prior to the 1959 Revolution, plans to kick off its new marketing strategy Wednesday with the introduction of Havana Club Añejo Clásico, a dark rum, and its “The Golden Age, Aged Well” advertising campaign in Florida.

Among the tag lines for the new campaign are: “Even a Revolution Couldn’t Topple the Rum,” and “The Freedom, The Decadence, The Dazzle, The Glamour. If Only Someone Had Bottled It.”

Through the summer, the new dark rum, which is double-aged in oak barrels for one to three years, and Havana Club white rum, which are distilled in Puerto Rico and bottled in Jacksonville, will be introduced in new markets across the United States.

Because of the interest in all things Cuban with the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, “it’s a good moment to introduce a new generation” to the brand, said Fabio Di Giammarco, global vice president of rums for Bacardi. “It’s an exciting time for us and the Havana Club franchise in the United States.”

But with the recent resurgence of U.S. travel to Cuba, many Americans have already been discovering another version of Havana Club, the one distilled in Cuba and distributed worldwide by a partnership of Cubaexport and French spirits maker Pernod Ricard.

While American travelers can now purchase a combined total of $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco products while visiting the island, the embargo against Cuba still precludes the sale of Cuban Havana Club or any other Cuban rum in the United States.

The day when the embargo is lifted and Cuban rum can be exported to the U.S. market is what makes the trademark so valuable. Bacardi and Cuba have been fighting over it for the past two decades in U.S. courts.

Cuba Ron, the Cuban rum company, and Pernod Ricard contend the “authentic” Havana Club rum is made in Cuba.

“Havana Club is the true spirit of Cuba: a genuine Cuban rum produced in Cuba from Cuban sugarcane,” said Apolline Celeyron, a spokesperson for Pernod Ricard. “If the U.S. embargo on Cuban products is lifted, we’ll be the first company to offer a true Cuban rum to our American neighbors.”

But not if Bacardi can help it. Bacardi stakes its claim to the use of the Havana Club name to the early 1990s when it purchased the name and recipe from the Arechabala family, who made the rum in Cuba between 1934 and 1960. After their plant was seized, they went into exile.

The Arechabalas, however, allowed their U.S. trademark to lapse in 1973, and three years later, Cubaexport snapped it up, registering it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

After purchasing the trademark from the Arechabala family, Bacardi began making its own Havana Club in Puerto Rico in very limited quantities and won a string of court victories against Cubaexport and Pernod Ricard, claiming that Cuba had “fraudulently obtained” the trademark and that it was not valid because it dealt with a property that was illegally confiscated.

But the tide turned in mid-January, when the patent office renewed Cubaexport’s registration of the Havana Club trademark.

Now the two sides are back in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., fighting over ownership of the trademark, and Bacardi is reinventing its version of Havana Club.

Bacardi has asked the court to reverse Cubaexport’s trademark registration and declare Bacardi the rightful owner of the common law rights to the Havana Club name, said Rick Wilson, Bacardi’s senior vice president of external affairs and corporate responsibility. Common law, he said, “for the most part is based on usage.”

So Bacardi’s Havana Club is going national.

There will be new vintage-style packaging featuring the Arechabala family crest, which was used on the family’s rum packaging and advertising beginning in1934, and a portrait of the company’s founder.

“We are extremely touched by the new packaging and direction for Havana Club in the U.S.,” said José “Pepo” Arechabala, a great-grandson of founder José Arechabala Aldama. “Our family was disheartened after the forced exile from Cuba, and has always felt the need for justice for what happened to our ancestors. We feel that their life’s work continues to live on through this re-branding of Havana Club, and is something that we can all be truly proud of.”

Wilson said the Arechabalas sold Havana Club in the United States from the 1930s through the 1950s, positioning it as “an export brand to showcase the family’s rum abroad.”

The new advertising campaign that will accompany the Havana Club relaunch will capture the “exuberant spirit of the Golden Age In Havana,” from the 1920s when Americans flocked to Cuba during prohibition, to the 1950s “when everything stylish and glamorous reigned supreme,” according to Bacardi.

Billboards for the relaunched Havana Club should begin appearing in the Miami area this week.

After the repackaged dark and white rums roll out in Florida, distribution will spread to Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas in July and August. Havana Club will begin appearing in liquor stores and high-end restaurants in the rest of the country in September, according to Bacardi. A bottle of the dark rum will retail for $21.99 and the Añejo Blanco for $19.99.

The company is targeting the millennial generation, and the new campaign will emphasize the resurgent cocktail culture. Among the featured cocktails is the Rum Mule, a concoction of dark rum, ginger beer, bitters and two lime wedges in a highball glass.

“Now we are doing the brand justice,” Di Giammarco said.

Pact on U.S.-Cuba Flights Reopens Battle for Property Stolen by Castro

José Ramón López, 62, the exiled heir to the Havana airport and to Cuba’s national airline
José Ramón López, 62, the exiled heir to the Havana airport and to Cuba’s national airline

The New York Times

The Obama administration’s top transportation officials will join Cuban dignitaries at the Hotel Nacional in Havana on Tuesday to sign an agreement that will restore commercial airline service between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years.

José Ramón López, 62, the exiled heir to the Havana airport and to Cuba’s national airline, was not invited.

This being Cuba, even a significant diplomatic announcement has a back story involving old wounds, confiscated properties and uphill legal battles.

Mr. López is the son of the former owner of the airport, whose property was seized by the Communists after the triumph of the Cuban revolution. He says he deserves compensation if the United States is going to agree to a commercial deal involving the airport with the government that stole his inheritance.

“The airport in Havana is private property — mine,” Mr. López said. “How are American corporations going to go there and benefit from it?”

Mr. López says his is a cautionary tale that highlights the perils of doing business in Cuba, where unresolved, decades-old disputes complicate efforts by Cuba and the United States to resume not only diplomatic relations but also economic ones.

Mr. López is a former Cuban merchant mariner who left Cuba in 1989 and moved to Miami seven years ago. He has paperwork showing that he is the only child of José López Vilaboy, an associate of Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban dictator who was overthrown early in 1959.

Mr. López Vilaboy ran to safety on Dec. 31, 1958, when it became clear that a young bearded rebel named Fidel Castro had defeated the Batista forces and that the dictator would step down. Mr. López Vilaboy hid in the Guatemalan Embassy for nine months before fleeing the country; his properties were immediately seized.

Among his many holdings were a bank, a couple of hotels, factories, a newspaper, two airlines and Rancho Boyeros, the airport serving Havana now known as José Martí International Airport.

As far as the new Cuban government was concerned, Mr. López Vilaboy’s many properties were the fruits of his close relationship to a corrupt regime.

Mr. López Vilaboy eventually arrived in South Florida, and he lived quietly in a two-bedroom apartment in Miami Beach until his death in 1989.

He never saw his son after he left Cuba.

In 2010, a probate court in Miami declared Mr. López to be one of Mr. López Vilaboy’s heirs.

Over the years, he met with various lawyers, but he said they shrugged him off, viewing him as just one of the thousands of Cuban-Americans who lost property in the revolution — which they had little chance of ever getting back.

Then it was announced late last week that the American secretary of transportation, Anthony Foxx, and the assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, Charles H. Rivkin, would lead a delegation to Cuba for a signing ceremony at the Hotel Nacional.

By the fall, United States airlines will operate 20 flights a day from the airport Mr. López still considers his.

“I just don’t understand how American corporations can do business with my property,” he said. “If they are not giving it to me, then pay me for using it.”

Mr. López enlisted the help of Andy S. Gómez, a retired scholar of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, who helped him arrange meetings to explore possible legal recourse. “Americans need to understand the risks of doing business in Cuba,” Mr. Gómez said.

He said the moment was particularly crucial now, as President Obama seeks to ease restrictions on doing business with Cuba and as more American companies flock there hoping to sign deals. Last week, the Obama administration approved the first American factory to operate in Cuba in more than 50 years, a small tractor company from Alabama.

The Helms-Burton Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, says that anyone who profits from properties that were confiscated from American citizens is liable for damages, even if the owner was not an American citizen at the time. Yet the law has provisos that allow the president to decide whether, for the sake of American interests, the law should be enforced.

It has pretty much never been enforced.

“It would be a slug fest,” said Pedro A. Freyre, a Miami lawyer who specializes in Cuban business deals. “It would be a brawl, a free-for-all, everyone suing every Canadian company, airline, hotel, you name it — and it would be detrimental to U.S. foreign relations.”

Martha Pantin, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, which is expected to bid for the Cuba routes, said Mr. López’s problem is one best answered by government agencies. “This is not an airline issue,” she said. Continue reading Pact on U.S.-Cuba Flights Reopens Battle for Property Stolen by Castro