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Pernod moves step closer to Havanista US launch

Following news the US and Cuba have agreed to restore diplomatic relations, Pernod Ricard has moved a step closer to launching its Havana Club rum in the US under the Havanista label.

Pernod Ricard could soon launch its Havana Club rum in the US under the Havanista trademark

Since a trade embargo was declared between the US and Cuba in 1961, when the Cuban revolution led to communism, Cuban rum has not been imported into the US.

However, yesterday (17 December) US president Barack Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro agreed a number of measures to improve diplomatic ties, including the release of a US prisoner Alan Gross, who was being held in Cuba, and three Cuban held in the US.

Under the measures, the US plans to open an embassy in Havana, Cuba, and will also undertake efforts to lift its 54-year trade embargo against Cuba, a move urged by Castro and which only US Congress can make.

While Cuban rum cannot yet be sold in the United States, import restrictions have been eased, meaning US citizens travelling to Cuba can now bring up to US$100 worth of tobacco and rum into the US. The products cannot be resold.

Consumers can therefore take limited quantities of Pernod Ricard’s Havana Club – one the world’s best-selling rum brands – into the US directly from Cuba.

US launch possible

News that discussions have moved forward with regards to lifting the trade embargo means the drinks group could soon officially launch Havana Club in the US under the Havanista trademark.

The group is unable to launch the rum under the Havana Club label in the US as the trademark is owned by Bermuda-based firm Bacardi, whose rum is produced in Puerto Rico.

The Cuban Bacardi family was forced into exile when the government was overthrown by fidel Castro in the 1950s, however the firm had already expanded its distillery operations to Puerto Rico.

Pernod Ricard and Bacardi have engaged in drawn-out legal battles over the Havana Club trademark since 1994, with Pernod Ricard attempting to block Bacardi’s use of the Havana Club trademark in the US.

Bacardi won the trademark in 2012, so Pernod Ricard registered an alternative trademark for the rum in the US, called Havanista. Pernod Ricard owns the Havana Club trademark in the rest of the world.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Pernod Ricard is encouraged by yesterday’s announcement that relations between the United States and Cuba are normalising.

“We are pleased that Americans traveling to Cuba under the new US policy will be able to enjoy our award-winning Cuban rum, Havana Club. We plan to carefully monitor further developments.”

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