Tag Archives: Havana Club

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.

Lawmakers Question U.S. Decision to Give Rum Trademark to Cuba


The Wall Street Journal

Concerned it could undermine protections for American intellectual property rights holders

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers said they are concerned about the Obama administration’s decision last month to award a trademark for Havana Club rum to the Cuban government.

In a letter to Secretary of State  John Kerry and Treasury Secretary  Jacob Lew on Tuesday, Reps.  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) and  Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), along with 23 other lawmakers, said they feared granting the trademark could undermine protections for American intellectual property rights holders.

Most of the congressional signatories to the letter—17 of 25—are from Florida, where President  Barack Obama’s Cuba policy remains a divisive issue.

Of the Democrats who signed on, eight of 11 are from Florida. Ms. Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, hasn’t enthusiastically embraced Mr. Obama’s policy shift with Cuba. She has said previously that she is considering the policy shift and hopes Mr. Obama will use it to press Cuba to improve human rights.

“I’ve been firmly committed to protecting the intellectual property rights of American companies, and I was pleased to join this letter with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and many of my Florida colleagues,” she said in a separate statement, without singling out Cuba.

Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said the U.S. decision to grant the trademark to Cuba was “politically motivated” by the Obama administration’s move to normalize ties with Cuba.

“This original family’s factories and trademarks were confiscated by the Castro regime and the U.S. government should not take any action which would embolden any foreign entity that could confiscate U.S. trademarks and intellectual property,” she said.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control decided last month to grant a license to state-run Cubaexport to renew an expired trademark registration for Havana Club rum in a move that has reignited a decadeslong battle tension between Bacardi Ltd. and the Cuban government over the use of the Havana Club trademark in the U.S.

Bacardi left Cuba after the 1959 revolution and later acquired the rights to the Havana Club trademark from its prerevolutionary owner, whose distillery was nationalized. The U.S. previously had recognized Bacardi’s claim to the Havana Club name under a law that aims to protect owners of Cuban companies that were nationalized after the Cuban revolution.

The decision to grant Cubaexport the trademark would allow the Cuban government to sell Cuban-made Havana Club in the U.S. for the first time in decades once the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba is lifted.

That is unlikely to happen before President Barack Obama leaves office in 2017, but experts, lobbyists and lawmakers in favor of the shift have said they expect it will in the next five years.

Bacardi had been selling Havana Club-branded rum in the U.S. since 1994. That rum is made in Puerto Rico because of the economic embargo. Pernod Richard SA, which has a joint venture with the Cuban government, has been selling a Cuban-made version of the rum outside of the U.S.

Amy Federman, a Bacardi spokeswoman, said, “Bacardi is pleased to see that members of Congress are standing up for property rights and looking into this issue.”

The company has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records to explain why the U.S. decided to return the rights to use the name Havana Club back to the Cuban state company, which runs a joint venture with a global rival liquor company.

On Thursday, Rep.  Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), a signatory to the letter, will chair a hearing on the Havana Club trademark battle and property claims. U.S. and Cuban officials met to talk about billions of dollars of competing property claims for the first time last December.

The claims, valued on the U.S. side to be between $7 billion and $8 billion, are among the most contentious issues the two sides will address as they push for full normalization. Cuba, for its part, said at the United Nations this year it is owed about $121 billion for damages from the economic embargo.