UPDATE: Havana Club feud heats up
A long-running feud between Pernod Ricard and Bacardi over Havana Club rum has intensified as the latter company launches the new Forever Cuban campaign.
The two groups are currently embroiled in a trademark battle over Havana Club.
Bacardi sells a brand of Havana Club rum, distilled in Puerto Rico, in the US. Pernod Ricard owns the international rights to the Cuba-made Havana Club brand outside of the US, since the country’s ban on Cuban imports remains.
However, in February 2016, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) renewed the trademark of Pernod Ricard’s brand for the next 10 years, setting in motion a lengthy legal challenge from Bacardi.
Tensions have ramped up once more with the launch of Bacardi’s Forever Cuban campaign, which draws on the experiences of Cuban exiles and features Cuban-American actor Raúl Esparza.
Pernod Ricard has accused Bacardi of including “misleading statements”in the campaign.
“Havana Club International stands firm and clear about the authenticity of its rum portfolio – which includes white and dark aged rums that are exclusively and wholly produced in Cuba,” a Pernod Ricard and Havana Club International spokesperson told The Spirits Business. “Havana Club rums are distributed globally except in the USA, due to the ongoing trade embargo.
“The Forever Cuban campaign, recently launched by Bacardi to promote its Puerto Rican rum products in the USA under the name Havana Club Rum, contains a number of misleading statements, the most obvious being a false claim to be the original Havana Club rum.
“The real Havana Club rum, produced through a joint venture between Cuba Ron S.A. and Pernod Ricard, is crafted in Cuba, from cane to glass, using the knowledge and expertise passed down from generation to generation of Maestros del Ron Cubano. As such, it is a 100% authentic Cuban rum.
“We are monitoring the campaign and are committed to our long-term goal of selling our family of authentic and genuine Havana Club Cuban rums in all countries around the world.”
The French drinks group owns the Havana Club brand in partnership with Cubaexport – an agency under the Cuban government.
Bacardi fires back
In a statement given to The Spirits Business, Bacardi has fired back, saying the campaign “asserts our rightful place as the true and original Havana Club rum” and calling Pernod Ricard’s brand “an impostor”.
“Pernod Ricard, a French company, continues to partner with the Cuban dictatorship to produce rum under a stolen name,” a spokesperson said. “That does not make the Pernod Ricard and Cuban government’s rum brand ‘real,’ or ‘authentic,’ it makes it an impostor.”
Bacardi acquired the US rights from Havana Club’s founders, the Arechabala family, and has been selling its Puerto Rico-made rum in the market since the mid-1990s.
The family’s business assets were seized by the Cuban government during the Cuban revolution more than 60 years ago.
“In 1959, the Castro regime seized the assets and confiscated the distillery of the Arechabala family, the original owners of Havana Club rum,” the spokesperson continued. “But, they could not steal the Arechabala’s recipe or strip the family of their soul, which is rooted in the craftsmanship of their product and solidifies their continued family legacy.
“After the Cuban regime unrightfully and forcefully confiscated the brand from the Arechabalas, Ramon Arechabala personally transcribed the recipe and gave it to Bacardi as an agreement between the two families – both of whom were exiled from their homeland.
“The ultimate convergence of two Cuban families coming together to continue an iconic brand’s legendary heritage with an authentic product, Bacardi is committed to continuing this legacy.
“It does not matter where Havana Club rum is produced, which in our case is Puerto Rico. Its Cuban authenticity is based on the original recipe, great-taste, craftsmanship, technique and passion since the brand was crafted in 1934.
“Our recently debuted Forever Cuban campaign asserts our rightful place as the true and original Havana Club rum. The campaign tagline ‘Forced from home. Aged in exile. Forever Cuban’ affirms that although it is no longer produced in Cuba, Havana Club rum is, and will forever be, Cuban.
“Bacardi will continue selling Havana Club rum using the recipe based on the original, which was created by the Arechabala’s in 1934 and is part of their family heritage.”