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U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act Gaining Momentum on Capitol Hill

Posted October 24, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Business.
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National Foreign Trade Council, Inc. - Press Release

Comprehensive Bill Protects American Business Interests in Cuba

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 /PRNewswire/—The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) announced today that the U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act of 2003 (H.R. 2494) has more than doubled its sponsorship since the bill’s introduction this summer. This bi-partisan bill will help U.S. companies protect trademarks registered in Cuba and prevent Cuba from becoming a haven for cyber squatters.

“Currently there are more than 5,000 American trademarks registered in Cuba that are vulnerable to counterfeiting and infringement, thanks to a five- year-old special-interest law known as Section 211 that breaches U.S. treaty commitments to Cuba. As awareness of this ‘section 211 problem’ grows, members increasingly recognize the need to comprehensively protect these U.S. trademarks,” said Bill Reinsch, president of NFTC.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Other sponsors include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Amo Houghton Jr. (R-NY), Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA), Rep. Nancy Johnson (R- CT), Rep. Robert Matsui (D-CA), Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA), Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN), Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), Rep. Butch Otter (R-ID), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC).

“Cuba and the U.S. have honored each others’ trademarks for 75 years. It’s shameful to think that the U.S. Congress might throw this area of cooperation away by pandering to one special interest at the expense of hundreds of American trademark holders. Our legislation has gained support so quickly because it ensures that, as the U.S. honors Cuban trademarks, Cuba will honor ours,” said Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), a sponsor of the bill.

H.R. 2494 co-sponsor Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) added, “Quite simply, Section 211 is putting American trademarks at risk overseas. Congress has a responsibility to craft a policy that will protect American trademarks, not jeopardize them.”

The U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act of 2003 establishes mechanisms to monitor the accuracy, reliability and stability of the Cuban government’s trademark registration and renewal process. Specifically, 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 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.

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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