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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Business

National Foreign Trade Council Lauds Introduction of U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act of 2003

Posted June 18, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Business.
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Wanda Moebius for the National Foreign Trade Council

WASHINGTON, June 17 /U.S. Newswire/—The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) applauds today’s introduction of the U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act of 2003 by a bipartisan group of leading members from the House Ways and Means and Judiciary committees. This bill will help U.S. companies protect trademarks registered in Cuba and prevent Cuba from becoming a haven for cyber squatters.

“American trademarks and the global recognition of brand names are vitally important to the U.S. economy. For the first time in 40 years these brand names are appearing in Cuban stores, but they are vulnerable to a special-interest U.S. law passed in 1998 that breaches U.S. treaty commitments to Cuba. That law gives Fidel Castro the option of choosing not to honor the various international treaties protecting U.S. trademarks in Cuba,” said Bill Reinsch, president of the NFTC. According to Reinsch, “the U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act removes that option.”

The bill was introduced by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), Rep. Amo Houghton Jr. (R-N.Y.), Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D). Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y) of the House International Relations Committee also is a co-sponsor of the bill.

“Until the introduction of this legislation, there was no mechanism in place for U.S. companies to monitor the accuracy, reliability and stability of the Cuban government’s registration and renewal process. The U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act of 2003 finally puts a U.S. controlled process in place so trademark owners know that reliable records are being kept,” said Reinsch.

The bill directs the Administration to initiate consultations with the Republic of Cuba to obtain assurances that Cuba will continue to comply with its obligations to protect and honor U.S. trademarks and trade names in Cuba under the Paris Convention, the Inter-American Convention, and the Madrid Agreement and Protocol. The bill similarly directs the Administration to comply with those agreements as they apply to Cuba.

Additionally, the bill directs the Administration to obtain assurances that Cuba will agree to follow internationally recognized procedures for resolving disputes over Internet domain names.

The bill also directs the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to assist U.S. companies seeking to protect and enforce their rights in Cuba by establishing a shadow registry of U.S. trademarks registered or submitted for registration in Cuba since January 1, 1959 and a registry of U.S. trademarks in Cuba that meet the requirements for well-known marks as of December 31, 1958.

The bill also:

—Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to amend the Cuban Asset Control Regulations to create a general license that allows U.S. nationals to engage in the full range of activities needed to protect their trademarks and trade names against infringement in Cuba.

—Directs the Treasury Secretary to amend the CACR to establish a general license for the transfer of U.S. trademarks and trade names in which Cuban entities have an interest.

—Directs the Treasury Secretary to amend the CACR to establish a general license to allow U.S. nationals to make the payments necessary to register their trademarks and trade names as domain names in the .cu Internet domain and to investigate and pursue removal of infringing .cu domain names.

—Restores the jurisdiction of the federal courts to enforce rights to foreign-origin trademarks based upon intellectual property treaties and laws in order to return to the status quo prior to the adoption of Section 211, a special interest provision that allows for discriminatory treatment of certain Cuban trademarks by prohibiting their renewal and by denying their holders access to courts.

“Last year, the World Trade Organization ruled that Section 211 violates two basic principles of the TRIPs agreement: national treatment and most-favored nation status. The WTO gave the U.S. Congress until June 30 to become compliant with the treaty or face possible sanctions, fines or other retaliatory actions. This bill provides a favorable solution for the U.S. to comply with this ruling,” said Reinsch.

“The sponsors of this legislation should be praised for their comprehensive approach to protecting the 5,000 U.S. trademarks in Cuba and restoring U.S. leadership on the issue of intellectual property rights protections,” said Reinsch.
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The National Foreign Trade Council is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves 350 member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.

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