If You Like Pina Coladas And Trademark Litigation


If youre thinking that label is a tad incongruous, you dont know the half of it.

There was a suit filed in Delaware court on Tuesday. Im going to introduce you to the players.

  • Pernod Ricard USA: The Purchase, NY-based division of the French spirits distributor, current joint holder – along with a Cuban state-run company – of the rights to sell Havana Club rum in Cuba. They are suing
  • Bacardi USA: The Miami-based division – originally incorporated in Delaware – of the Bermuda-based spirits distributor founded by a Spanish-born Cuban, whose center of rum production is in Puerto Rico. They are currently selling their own version of Havana Club – thats the label for the rum pictured above – in the United States, where Pernod Ricards trademark holds no validity because of the trade embargo with Cuba.

Got all that? I didnt either.

Theres a lot of corporate, political and cultural intrigue in this case – I claim little insight or interest in the first two, but I feel being a native Puerto Rican raised in Miami (currently residing on the edge of the American South) gives me at least a small window into the latter.

What really strikes me about this entire ordeal is how often Cuba and Puerto Rico are caught up in political and cultural tussles. I heard a lot of anti-Cuban sentiment amongst some of my family and their friends; it was never as mean-spirited your typical racism, but there was definitely some hostility.

Not unlike most any other racial tension, the roots of the tension are pretty deep: there is a lot of evidence that Tainos – the natives traditionally associated with Puerto Rico, and the Caribs – typically associated with Cuba, were often at violent odds (though its historically dubious to divide the native groups along such modern geopolitical lines, that doesnt mean its not the way were taught it as kids).

God forbid we focus on both natives annihilation by disease and conquistadors. And I cant help but think that outsider interference/intervention will soon play another huge role in continued tension between the two nations.

The Pernod-Bacardi feud has a lot to do with the US-Cuba feud. Once that embargo is lifted Cuba will be fair trade game. Cubas play in the world probably wont happen as soon as anyone hopes, but its definitely chic to talk about it. Like Bob has discussed, Cubas impact on Florida and the US can be very positive if properly planned.

If that proper planning happens, what happens to Puerto Rico? The White House released a report urging Puerto Ricans to put the question of statehood to (another) vote. This represented stronger-than-usual interest by the US into the eternal political question in Puerto Rico. I cant believe Cuba wont be the priority when the embargo is lifted, if it isnt already. What happens to the commonwealth when the suddenly free nation takes center stage?

And how the heck will we drown our upstaged sorrows when we have no earthly idea whose rum were drinking?