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 Cohiba Brand Trademark Dispute Site

The Cohiba trademark is claimed to be owned by Cuba-based Cubatabaco and General Cigar Company from the United States. 

This site covers the international trademark dispute over the Cohibas brand Cuban cigar trademark.  This site will post Casa del Habanos locations in Canada, Cuba, Europe, Russia and the Middle East along with General Cigar retail cigar store locations for their Cohibas brand trademark in an effort to aid consumers to find both brands of Cohiba cigars so they can participate in this forum of Cohiba brand cigars.

We are not covering other brands of Cuban cigars but it is fun to say Partagas, Romeo y Julieta and Monte Cristo.

Neither corporation owns this domain nor has any input into the content or management of the site.

The owner of this domain and website is independent and not affiliated with either company in any way.

This site also features a page about fake vs real Cohiba Esplendios and the Pinar del Rio cigar brand trademark dispute.

 
 
Pierre Salinger talks about getting 1200 Cuban cigars before President Kennedy signed the Cuban trade Embargo.  

James Suckling of Cigar Aficionado talks about how the United States will be the biggest market for Cuban cigars when the Embargo is lifted and the BBC writes about smoking Cuban cigars in Cuba. You can buy Cuban cigars from Canada but it is not legal to bring them into the United States.

March 2013

The Associated Press
 
The company General Cigar Co. Inc. may continue to use the trademark name for their cigars Cohiba in the United States, said a federal commission.

It is the most recent ruling in a legal battle for almost 16 years with the national company of the Cuban cigar brand in Cuba.

General Cigar, based in Richmond, Virginia, and a subsidiary of Swedish Match AB, the Commission indicated that Trial and Trademark Appeals rejected the request was canceled Cubatabaco that the use of the name by the U.S. firm.

The commission ruled that, as the courts ruled that Cubatabaco can not sell their cigars in the United States, cannot litigate in that country for the Cohiba trademark.

General Cigar said it has sold its provenance Dominican Cohiba cigars in the United States since the early 1980s. It received its first registration of that mark in the United States in 1981.

Despite Embargo, Cuban Cigar Makers Have Standing to Seek Cancellation of Registration

September 07, 2011 | BNA

Case Summary: The TTAB rejects a motion to dismiss for lack of standing a petition by Cuban cigar makers to cancel a trademark registration by a Dominican cigar company.

Key Takeaway: Even under the strictures of the Cuban embargo, a Cuban company might have standing to seek cancellation of a U.S. registered trademark.

Despite the Cuban embargo, a Cuban entity might have standing to petition the Patent and Trademark Office for cancellation of a trademark registration, particularly when alleging that the registration is geographically deceptively misdescriptive, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled Aug. 1 (Corporacion Habanos S.A. v. Rodriguez, T.T.A.B., No. 92052146, 8/1/11).

Denying a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, the court also noted the Cuban cigar maker's assertion of use of the relevant term internationally as well as in advertisements in U.S. publications.

Read on from Dominican Cigar Maker Registers Term With PTO

December 14, 2009 (no news as of May 2011)

New York District Judge Robert Sweet ruled on December 14, 2009 that the Cohiba brand belonged to Cubatabaco and that US based General Cigar can no longer use the Cohiba name for its cigars made in the Dominican Republic. Since 1992 General Cigar used the Cohiba brand, originally started in Cuba and owned by state run Cubatabaco, to market their own Cohiba cigars.

The Cohiba brand is sold in every country except the United States because of the long standing US Embargo against Cuba.

General Cigar’s representatives said they’ll appeal the judge's ruling in this case that has been in the courts for ten years. However, General Cigar is allowed to continue selling Dominican Republic Cohibas until the appeal is heard.

The lawyers for Cubatabaco say that this decision "vindicates the fundamental principle that a company cannot be permitted to reap what it has not sowed and that it cannot exploit the goodwill and reputation of another enterprise’s product".

The website Cohibas.com has been covering this trademark and brand dispute for several years.

August 29, 2009

WILL WEISSERT and MICHAEL FELBERBAUM | AP

The thought of competing with Cuba is already keeping executives at Swedish Match North America up nights. The Richmond, Virginia-based company owns General Cigar Inc., which has sold Dominican Republic-made Cohiba cigars in the U.S. since 1997.

"It's not the brand that's going to make the difference, it's whether it's Cuban or not," said Gerry Roerty, the company's vice president and general counsel. And smokers are willing to pay a premium for Cuban, he said.

Cohiba was founded in Cuba to make cigars for Castro and visiting dignitaries. Today it is the flagship of 27 premium brands produced by Habanos, equally owned by the government and Madrid-based Altadis SA, which was acquired last year by Britain's Imperial Tobacco Group PLC.

Cuba never registered its version of Cohibas in the United States but still sued General Cigar. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with General Cigar, which has factories in the Dominican Republic and Honduras and produces versions of signature Cuban brands Partagas, Hoyo de Monterrey, Bolivar and Punch. It also makes the La Gloria Cubana, Rico Habano and Havana Honeys brands, which despite their names are unknown on the island.

U.S. industry estimates show 85 million Cuban cigars could be shipped to the U.S. annually in a post-embargo world, slashing profits for U.S. companies that sell about 255 million premium cigars a year.

Roerty said not only would General Cigar face a trademark war, but the company would not have access to Cuban tobacco leaves or other raw materials to match its new competitors.

Some say the forbidden-fruit factor around Cuban cigars and other products won't last if the embargo vanishes.

Still, most U.S. aficionados are anxious to get their hands on real Cubans.

At Havana Connections, a cigar shop in suburban Richmond — General Cigar's own backyard — mention of Cubans sparked an hour-long discussion.

"When you smoke, it's taste. And the Cuban seed and Cuban cigar — they're smoother and creamier," said 60-year-old Dan Tater, a smoker for about a quarter-century. "There's got to be something to that lore that this is really a better cigar."

Americans hankering for super-strong, Cuban-style espresso can get Cubita, a coffee imported by Universal Brands Inc. in Florida that shares a name with the Cuba's best-seller on the island.

Universal Brands President Raul Diaz said his company has held a U.S. trademark for Cubita since the early 1990s and is confident it will stand regardless of any change in America's Cuba policy. But he acknowledged that "at some point, if Cubita from Cuba is sold in the U.S., one of the Cubitas is going to suffer."

More than 3,000 U.S. brands continue to hold trademarks in Cuba, with everything from McDonald's to Macy's to Mr. Peanut paying periodic registration fees in case the island one day embraces the free market, according to a 2002 list compiled by U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Inc. in New York.

Experts worried the 2006 decision to nullify Cuba's Havana Club trademark in the U.S. would prompt Cuba to stop respecting American brand names on the island — especially after Castro famously threatened to produce Cuban Coca-Cola.

So far, there has been no retaliation.

Colvin said Cuban leaders know that violating U.S. trademarks will weaken the island's case before the World Trade Organization and other groups, where it claims American laws have allowed multinational companies to trample its trademarks.

"They've always made the case that they are right on this issue and they are the victims," he said. "If they start violating trademarks, they lose the moral high ground."

July 29, 2009

The family of Bobby Fuller, a man who was executed for invading Cuba, has won a $100 million lawsuit against the Cuban government for wrongful death due to a terrorist act. Yes, you read that right but that's not what this entry is about. The family is requesting that their judge "order the sale of Havana Club, Cohiba and 12 other Cuban trademarks to help satisfy their award".

From these excerpts from the article  Shameless family of Bobby Fuller uses US legal system for Cuba money grab

"For one thing, the value of the trademarks registered in the United States is unclear. Cuban-made products cannot be sold here. The trademarks’ highest value would be based on a post-embargo marketplace—a possibility that appears closer under the Obama administration.

It is also not clear whether the three Cuban entities can claim ownership of their 14 trademarks in dispute. A 1998 U.S. law prevents Cuban trademark owners from renewing their trademarks in the United States if they were confiscated along with companies nationalized by the Cuban government."

END

So, the controversy rages over who actually owns the Cohiba and Havana Club rum trademarks. Continue to visit this site for more information as we find it.

June 18, 2009

Excerpted from Cuban cigar article from Bloomberg by Mark Drajem:

Cuba lost the U.S. rights to Cohibas when General Cigar registered the brand in the 1970s. General Cigar has so far fended off a 1997 lawsuit brought by Cubatabaco to reclaim that name. A new ruling in the case may come within months.

General Cigar has spent more than $5 million lobbying Congress over the past eight years. It got lawmakers to strike a provision in a 2001 measure that it says would have allowed Cuba to barter cigars for food or medicine. Imperial began lobbying this year for the first time since at least 2000, spending an initial $30,000, according to Senate records.

General Cigar also hired Miller & Chevalier, a Washington law firm specializing in trade issues, to study how else it might slow the flow of Cuban imports if the embargo goes.

December 19, 2008: Rush Limbaugh had someone call in asking about buying Cuban cigars in the United States. The caller asked "When will it be legal to buy Cuban cigars?".

Rush said that he didn't think it would be any time soon because of the potential trademark disputes regarding Cuban cigar brands and those of similar named brands from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua.

cohiba brand trademark dispute 

Graphic from of CigarAficionado.com

December 8, 2008: Federal Judge overturns the Cohiba brand trademark dispute and more information about the Cohiba red dot cigar brand vs. the Cuban Cohiba brand from StogieGuys.com

BY FRANCES ROBLES | Miami Herald

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the Cuban government's nine-year legal quest to snuff out that other Cohiba: the Dominican-made stogie sold by an American company.

The Supreme Court Monday let stand a New York appellate court ruling that the U.S. embargo prevents Cuba from obtaining a U.S. registry for its famous Cohiba trademark, cigars long favored by aficionados and even Fidel Castro until he stopped smoking years ago.

But the Cuban cigar company Cubatabaco says it's not giving up and will press the U.S. Department of Treasury for a license that would allow Cuba to register the trademark here. Since the embargo is the only legal obstacle for Cuba, the Treasury license would give Havana grounds to re-launch its court battle, Cubatabaco attorney David Goldstein said.

Although most people think of Cohiba as a Cuban cigar first made in 1966, a stogie by the same name has been manufactured in the Dominican Republic and sold in the United States dating back 25 years. It is the only Cohiba that's legal to buy in the United States.

General Cigar Co. first registered the Cohiba name in the United States in 1981. But cigar sales were lackluster back then, and the company did little with the famed name.

All that changed in 1992, when Cigar Aficionado magazine extolled the wonders of the Cuban Cohiba. General Cigar quickly filed to renew its trademark and in 1997 -- with the cigar business booming -- rolled out a new campaign plugging its own Cohibas made from Dominican leaves.

''We had that brand for more than 20 years, and Cuba didn't say a word,'' said General Cigar spokeswoman Victoria McKee. ``They are two different cigars.''

General Cigar uses a logo with a red dot in the O of Cohiba, an emblem different from the well-known yellow and black checker board used by the Cuban company.

But the Cuban cigar company cried foul, saying General Cigar was deliberately trying to trick consumers into thinking they were smoking the famous Cuban cigars.

'We acted in good faith at all times,' said General Cigar attorney Ignacio Sanchez.

Cubatabaco sued General Cigar Co. in 1997 in a New York federal court. The Cubans argued that Cohiba's famous name should trump General Cigar's trademark registration. A New York federal judge agreed in 2004 and ordered General Cigar to quit using the name. But General Cigar successfully appealed on the embargo argument.

''General Cigar intentionally exploited the Cohiba theme, and the trial judge agreed,'' Goldstein said. ``We will continue to pursue our application for a license.''

The Cubans say the United States has a broad obligation to protect ''well-known'' trademarks under the Paris Convention and other treaties.

The company added that hundreds of American companies have more than 5,000 trademarks registered in Cuba, in spite of the U.S. sanctions.

Action brought on 9 June 2008 — Habanos v OHIM — Tabacos de Centroamérica

June 9, 2008 | (Case T-207/08) | (2008/C 209/101)

Language in which the application was lodged: Spanish Parties

Applicant: Corporación Habanos, SA (Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba) (represented by: V. Gil Vega and A. Luiz López, lawyers)

Defendant: Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs)

Other party to the proceedings before the Board of Appeal of OHIM:

Tabacos de Centroamérica, SL (Pozuelo de Alarcón, Spain)

Form of order sought

Annul the decision of the Second Board of Appeal of the OHIM of 31 March 2008, and declare that there is a similarity, and a likelihood of confusion, between the composite mark KIOWA and the earlier composite marks COHIBA, which designate identical profits, and a intent, on the part of the applicant for registration, of undue profit from/detriment to the distinctive character and or the reputation of the earlier COHIBA marks cited, and thus refuse registration of the Community mark No 3.963.931 KIOWA (composite);

or, in the alternative, annul the decision of the OHIM referred to, and order that the file be sent back to the Second Board of Appeal of the OHIM so that the claims and evidence relating to Article 8(5) of Regulation 40/94 be analysed and examined, and — order OHIM to pay the costs of all instances, including the fees of the applicant's representatives.

Pleas in law and main arguments

Applicant for a Community trade mark: Tabacos de Centroamérica, SL

Community trade mark concerned: Figurative mark ‘KIOWA’ in respect of goods in Class 34 (application No 3.963.931)

Proprietor of the mark or sign cited in the opposition proceedings:

Corporación Habanos, SA, which operates under the business name of Habanos, SA.

Mark or sign cited in opposition: Figurative mark ‘COHIBA’ (Community mark No. 3.323.292), word mark ‘COHIBA’ (Spanish mark No 1.271.173) and the figurative mark ‘COHIBA’ (Spanish mark No 2.052.344) in respect of products in Class 34.

Decision of the Opposition Division: Dismissal of the opposition.

Decision of the Board of Appeal: Dismissal of the appeal.

Pleas in law: In particular, a high level of similarity between the opposing marks, resulting in a risk of confusion.

In 2008, Habanos filed a Notice of Opposition against a cigar lighter maker for using the Havana. Habanos is claiming that the word Havana means cigar.

Please email me at   if you have any more information from Habanos SA or General Cigar regarding the legal battle over the Cohiba brand trademark dispute and we will post it here.