Altadis U.S.A., one of the largest cigar brands, has sued Figaro Cigars 1943 LLC, a company whose website lists a total of seven authorized retailers.
The case centers around the fleur-de-lis, the classic French symbol that adorns the company’s Montecristo line. In 2015, Figaro filed for a trademark for its Figarillos brand that included a logo using the fleur-de-lis. Altadis U.S.A., which owns the rights to the brand in the U.S., then opposed the mark.
According to Winford Figaro, founder of the Homestead, Fla.-based company, his trademark was actually opposed by two companies. The first was by Trendsettah USA, Inc., the owner of the SPLITarillos brand of flavored cigarillos. Figaro says the company eventually dropped their opposition, but by that point, late 2015, Altadis U.S.A. had opposed the mark.
Figaro claims he directed his attorney to negotiate an agreement with the company which would have prevented Figaro from using the fleur-del-lis symbol in exchange for Altadis U.S.A. dropping its opposition. He claims Altadis never responded to this request and in December his attorney informed the company it would be moving forward with its trademark application without any agreement. Figaro says the time was running out for his application and he was forced to move on.
“I’m not going to give them more of an extension,” said Figaro. “What happened was the time from a trademark perspective was up to Dec. 31. Then they went through the civil process.”
That civil process refers to the lawsuit filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In its lawsuit, Altadis U.S.A. is asking for, amongst other things, an injunction barring the sale of Figaro cigars with the fleur-de-lis, the destruction of all Figaro cigars and marketing material with the fleur-de-lis and a monetary judgment for damages.
Rob Norris, general manager of Altadis U.S.A., declined to comment. Altadis U.S.A. is owned by Imperial Brands, plc, a British multinational tobacco company, which also owns 50 percent of Habanos S.A., the company responsible for trademarks and sales of Cuban cigars.
Altadis U.S.A. and Cuban Cigar Brands N.V., another Imperial brand, have a variety of trademarks that include the fleur-de-lis spanning decades.
This is not the first time Altadis has sued someone over the fleur-de-lis. It settled a lawsuit with Tatuaje over the use of the symbol in 2009. As part of that agreement, Tatuaje was allowed to use the fleur-de-lis on certain brands, but barred from using it in the future. It also introduced a new logo that didn’t include the fleur-de-lis.
For his part, Figaro says he didn’t realize Montecristo was using the symbol. Instead, he was inspired by the New Orleans Saints football team from his time in the state, hence the black and gold bands for the Figarillos brand. Those, however, are likely a thing of the past as he says new bands have already been made. In addition, his website—something Altadis U.S.A. also complained about—is ready to be replaced with a new one that avoids the symbol.