Bacardi Beats Pernod in U.S. Rum War as Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal

The two spirits giants have been battling over the Havana Club rum brand since the 1990s, when Bacardi launched its Puerto Rico-made version to sell inside the United States, taking advantage of Washington's embargo on Cuban imports.

Bacardi won its battle to sell Puerto Rico-made "Cuban" rum in the United States Monday when the Supreme Court refused to hear rival Pernod Ricard's arguments in a bitter trademark war between the two.

The court's decision to turn back an appeal left Bacardi able to keep selling the popular Havana Club brand of rum inside the United States, while Pernod -- which controls the original Cuba-made Havana Club -- left the fight empty-handed.

The two spirits giants have been battling over the Havana Club rum brand since the 1990s, when Bacardi launched its Puerto Rico-made version to sell inside the United States, taking advantage of Washington's embargo on Cuban imports.

France-based Pernod (IW 1000/397), which sells Cuba-made Havana Club elsewhere around the world in a joint venture with the Cuban government, had fought to retain the original U.S. rights to the name, in hopes that Washington would eventually make peace with Havana and remove the embargo.

The dispute is ultimately rooted in the Cuban communist revolution that sparked the embargo.

After Fidel Castro took power in Havana in 1959, the new Cuban government seized control of the distillery founded and owned by the Arechabala family.

Eventually Cuba extended Pernod the rights over the brand name in a joint venture; at the same time, the Arechabala family, which fled the country after the revolution, sold its claim to Bacardi.

On Monday, Pernod said its joint venture still retains rights over the Havana Club brand in the 120 markets worldwide that it sells to.

But it said it had already registered a new brand name for the U.S. market, Havanista, in anticipation that the United States will one day lift the import ban and the company will then be able to sell a true Cuba-made rum in the United States.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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