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Rubio, Menendez Introduce Bill to Prohibit U.S. Court from Recognizing Trademarks Confiscated by the Cuban Government

Mar 12, 2019 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, today joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in introducing the No Stolen Trademarks Honored in America Act (S. 756). The bipartisan, bicameral bill prohibits U.S. courts from recognizing, enforcing, or otherwise validating any assertion of rights by an individual of a trademark that was used in connection with a business or assets that were confiscated by the Cuban regime unless the original owner of the trademark has expressly consented. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and John Rutherford (R-FL).
 
A trademark involving Bacardi, one of the world’s largest liquor producers, is illustrative of this circumstance. Havana Club’s assets were seized by the Cuban government in 1959, and in 1994 –although the trademark expired in 1974– descendants of the Havana Club founder sold the recipe and trademark to Bacardi, who has since produced the rum in Puerto Rico. Around the same time, Cuban firm Cuba Ron filed for and received a U.S. trademark on the name, and partnered with Pernod Ricard to sell competing “Havana Club” rum. The No Stolen Trademarks Honored in America Act would prohibit the Cuba Ron / Pernod Ricard partnership from using rights related to Havana Club due to the Cuban regime’s confiscation of the original company in 1959.
 
“For 60 years, the Communist Cuban regime through government-controlled companies has profited from stolen property that rightfully belongs to Americans,” Rubio said. “It has long been U.S. policy to support the rightful owners of stolen property, and this bipartisan bill ensures that U.S. courts will not recognize, enforce, or otherwise validate any trademark rights from businesses or assets stolen by the Cuban regime.”
 
“The confiscation of assets by the Cuban government is, and will always be a crime,” Menendez said. “This bipartisan legislation will protect U.S. trademarks by prohibiting courts from recognizing the rights of those subject to confiscation without consent, continuing the longstanding U.S. policy of supporting the rightful owners of stolen property.”  
 
“I’ve been firmly committed to safeguarding the intellectual property rights of American companies to ensure that trademarks are protected against confiscation by any foreign government,” Rep. Wasserman Schultz said. “This bill does that, by prohibiting courts from validating an assertion of trademark rights in connection with a business or assets confiscated by the Cuban government, and by supporting the true and just owners of stolen property – a long-held U.S. policy that must be continued.”
 
“The Cuban government has been allowed to steal American intellectual property for far too long,” Rep. Rutherford said. “By upholding strong copyright protections in our courts, foreign regimes will no longer be permitted to profit off American ingenuity.”
 
The bill applies a trademark prohibition only if the individual asserting the rights knew or had reason to know at the time of acquiring the rights asserted that the trademark was the same or substantially similar to the mark or name used in connection with the business or assets that were confiscated.