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  • Writer's pictureSigaro Privato

Congress aiming to confront seized Cuban trademarks

A group of bipartisan and bicameral members of Congress have reintroduced the No Stolen Trademarks Honored in America Act, a bill aimed at preventing the use of trademarks seized by the Cuban government after the Cuban Revolution in 1959.

If passed, the bill would prohibit both the executive branch and the U.S. court system from recognizing trademarks "when the individual asserting trademark rights knew or had reason to know at the time of acquisition that the trademark was the same or substantially similar to the trademark or name used in connection with a U.S. business or asset confiscated by the Cuban government," according to a press release from Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

Senators Menendez and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are co-sponsoring the bill in the Senate, while Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., are reintroducing the bill in the House. The same four members introduced the legislation in 2021, but it failed to pass either chamber.

The bill aims to protect U.S. businesses and assets from being exploited by foreign governments. It seeks to prevent the use of trademarks that were confiscated by the Cuban government, which could potentially harm U.S. businesses that have invested in those trademarks.

This legislation is a crucial step towards protecting American businesses and their intellectual property rights. It is a bipartisan effort that demonstrates the importance of safeguarding U.S. assets from foreign governments.

The impact of the proposed legislation on the cigar business remains uncertain. Established brands such as Partagas and Romeo y Julieta are already protected by active trademarks. Many classic Cuban brands were sold in the US before 1962, when Cuban cigars were legal, and therefore had trademarks established. Currently, 27 Cuban cigar brands are actively sold, most of which also have non-Cuban versions available in the US. Altadis U.S.A. and General Cigar Co. own most of these trademarks, but other entities, such as My Father, own some.

However, the legislation could potentially affect a trademark that is not an active cigar brand, let alone an active Cuban brand. It is important to note that the proposed legislation would not impact the ongoing legal dispute over the Cohiba trademark in the US, as it is considered a post-revolution brand with the first known trademark filed in 1969.

Representative Issa emphasized that the legislation is not just about one specific circumstance, but rather a correction of a historical wrong and a recognition of the value of intellectual property and the ownership of one's ideas and creations. The proposed legislation aims to ensure that the protections of US laws apply to all parties claiming US rights to confiscated Cuban trademarks, regardless of nationality.

Although a press release has announced the reintroduction of the legislation, it has not yet been added to the Congressional database. However, on the Senate side, six additional sponsors have already been named, including:

- Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.)

- Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)

- Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)

- Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.)

- Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)

- Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.)

It is worth noting that the bill's reintroduction is a significant step towards its potential enactment. The involvement of these senators from both sides of the aisle suggests that the legislation has bipartisan support, which could increase its chances of passing. However, it is important to keep in mind that the bill's journey through Congress is far from over, and there may be further developments in the coming weeks and months.

Written by Thomas Sigaro, The Cigar Connoisseur.

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