A bipartisan and bicameral group of members of Congress has reintroduced the No Stolen Trademarks Honored in America Act, a bill that seeks to prevent the use of trademarks seized by the Cuban government following the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
If passed, the bill would prevent 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.
Menendez and Sen. 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, though it failed to pass either chamber.
It’s unclear how impactful the legislation would be for the cigar business. The active cigar brands that would be affected by the law—brands like Partagas or Romeo y Julieta—are already established as active trademarks. Because Cuban cigars were legal in the U.S. prior to 1962, many of the classic Cuban brands were sold in the U.S. and had trademarks established. Today, there are 27 Cuban cigar brands actively sold, most of which are also sold as non-Cuban versions in the U.S. Two companies—Altadis U.S.A. and General Cigar Co.—own most of these trademarks, though there are some—for example, My Father owns Fonseca—owned by other entities.
There’s the possibility that it could affect a trademark that is not an active cigar brand, let alone an active Cuban brand.
One legal dispute the legislation would not affect is the current fight over the Cohiba trademark in the U.S.; Cohiba is considered a post-revolution brand with the first known trademark filed in 1969.
“This legislation is about more than one circumstance. It is the righting of a historical wrong and clear acknowledgement (sic) of the inherent value of intellectual property and the inviolable ownership of one’s ideas and creations,” said Issa in a press release. “This legislation makes a technical correction to our law, but one that will ensure that the protections of our laws apply to all parties claiming U.S. rights to confiscated Cuban trademarks – regardless of nationality.”
While a press release indicates the legislation has been reintroduced, it does not yet appear in the Congressional database. On the Senate side, there are six additional sponsors already named:
- 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.
Featured Image By Scrumshus (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons