USA: Land of Opportunity

27th September, 2012 by Chris Mercer
Havana Club Havanista

Havana Club cannot sell its range in Cuba, instead the brand name will change to Havanista

From emerging trends to the seemingly eternal mainstays of the US spirits market: it would be improper to discuss the country’s prospects without referring to the Havana Club dispute. At stake is a US market that accounts for around 40% of global rum sales.

Since May, Bacardi believes itself in the ascendancy after the US Supreme Court refused to review a rule preventing Pernod Ricard and its Cuban business partner, Cubaexport, from renewing the registration of the Havana Club name.

A Bacardi USA spokesperson tells The Spirits Business: “As a matter of law, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will formally cancel the registration of Cubaexport for the mark in due course.”

You’re Havana laugh

Bacardi already claims the Havana Club trademark in US common law, after buying the rights to the name from its original owner, the Arechabala family, in the 1990s. It has had a federal trademark application pending since 1994 and, now, “we fully expect that federal registration will be obtained”, the firm says. It plans to expand US sales of Havana Club beyond Florida “in the near future”.

Pernod, meanwhile, has developed a plan B via a new rum brand called Havanista. “If we can’t have Havana Club, it will be Havanista,” a company spokesperson says. “We want to have a Cuban rum in the US.” Not that Pernod believes Bacardi’s USPTO application is cut and dried. “To date, the USPTO has always rejected Bacardi’s application,” points out Olivia Lagache, Pernod’s legal counsel for Havana Club. She highlights that Pernod and Cubaexport’s Havana Club sells 3.8m cases globally and has trademark rights everywhere except in the US.

But, before Pernod can do anything at all, the US Government would also have to lift a longstanding trade embargo on Cuban goods. If that does happen – and it’s still a sizeable ‘if’ – at least plenty of young adults look set to be thirsty. “If Greece goes down the toilet, then all bets are off,” says McDonnell of DISCUS and Patrón. “But, right now, the major US cities are vibrant and people are feeling good.”

Turn the page to discover Five Hot US Trends rocking the spirits world Stateside.

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