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Posted September 28, 2004 by Dana Garrett in US Embargo

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By Klaus Marre | THE HILL

In a rare intervention in the American legislative process, the Cuban government is lobbying against legislation pending before Congress, saying lawmakers must act to repeal controversial trademark legislation and expressing its opposition to the so-called Bacardi bill, according to a document provided to The Hill.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has held that Section 211 of the 1999 omnibus appropriations legislation violates international trademark rights. Congress is contemplating legislative fixes that would bring the United States in compliance with the ruling.

But one legislative proposal only benefits Bahamas-based rum maker Bacardi, according to lawmakers and U.S.-based companies that oppose this approach.

They say passing the Bacardi bill (S. 2373), which the Senate Judiciary Committee hopes to take up this week, would only amend Section 211 and open the door for Cuba to retaliate legally against U.S. trademarks in Cuba, which could cost American companies millions.

Many U.S. companies favor S. 2002, introduced by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), which would repeal Section 211.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee members, Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera, chief of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, D.C., said Cuba opposes S. 2373. Barrera said his country’s courts have protected the thousands of U.S. trademarks currently registered in Cuba, adding that Cuba has “waited with considerable patience on effective U.S. action to cure Section 211’s violations” of the Inter-American Convention and the TRIPS agreement.

Many U.S. companies fear that Cuban leader Fidel Castro would initiate legal retaliation against their trademarks. National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) President Bill Reinsch said he believes Cuba is “waiting to see what Congress does” but would retaliate if Section 211 were not appealed outright.

When the Judiciary Committee marks up S. 2373, Craig or an ally will introduce a substitute that would repeal Section 211, according to a source close to the issue.

A Senate source said there appears to be more support for a straight-up repeal than for either S. 2373 or S. 2002.

A Craig aide said, “Opponents of repealing Section 211 want everybody to believe it has something to do with Castro. It doesn’t. It has everything to do with protecting U.S. companies.”

“Find me 10 U.S. companies out of 5,000 U.S.-registered trademarks in Cuba that support keeping Section 211 in place and we’ll talk,” the aide said, adding, “Simply put, this law is crazy, and one has to wonder why it was snuck in 40 years post-embargo.”

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), author of the bipartisan S. 2373, said his bill would protect the owners of trademarks Cuba has confiscated and not favor a particular company.

Reinsch said anybody who expects Cuba not to retaliate if S. 2373 were signed into law is “being awfully cavalier with other people’s money.”

Cuba’s minister of foreign affairs said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly last year: “The United States must prevent the Bacardi company from stealing the Havana Club rum brand name. Its government should not be interested ó and I want to state this clearly here ó in a conflict of trademarks and patents with Cuba.”

Earlier this year, Cuba issued a statement attacking the United States’ “total indifference and lack of willingness” to address the issue.

The International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC), a group consisting of about 140 members that represent total revenues of more than $650 billion, appealed to Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and ranking Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) not to pass the Bacardi bill, instead lobbying for an all-out repeal of Section 211.

IACC President Timothy Trainer argued that without such a repeal, Cuba could withdraw legally “protections of the Inter-American Convention from the U.S.-owned trademarks registered in Cuba.”

That, Trainer added, “would create an environment conducive to trademark counterfeiting and, at the very least, subject American companies to time-consuming and expensive litigation to regain their marks when Congress decides to restore normal commercial relations with Cuba.”

Bacardi could not be reached for comment. The Cuban Interest Section did not return calls seeking comment.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on September 28, 2004 by Jesus Perez

    Is there any rational explanation why we attack and antagonize the Cuban government and its people in any way we can think of?

  2. Follow up post #2 added on September 28, 2004 by Chulo, or Pimp as Greg wants to call me

    Love ya Jesus, ‘cause you keep placing “government” in the same sentence as “people,” as if they were “one and the same” in Cuba.  Two different animals my friend.

    And you want to talk about property rights?  Cuba stole everything the Cuban people owned in the early 60s.  Forget about what they stole from US companies, but the people themselves man.  This is why I can’t accept your continuous effort to make it seem as if the “people” have actual representation and are equal to the “government” in Cuba.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on September 30, 2004 by Gregory Biniowsky

    Hey Chulo,
    Nice to see you again! Since you study law, did you not know that nationalization of private property is actually permitted within Western concepts of law? It is interesting that you claim that the Cuban government “stole” U.S. property, when in fact what happened was that the United States refused to sit down with the Cuban revolutionary government and negotiate compenstion for these nationalized properties. In fact, capitalist countries like Canada, France, and Spain also had extensive property in Cuba. The difference was that they were willing to negotiate in good faith the terms of the nationalizations and were subsequently compensated by the Castro government. (Remember Chulo, international law allows any State to nationalize national and foreign owned private property. Dust off your text books, buddy.)

    The problem was that the U.S. government simply assumed that the new revolutionary government of Fidel Castro would not last more than a couple months (alas, the failed Bay of Pigs…a painful memory for people like you), and thus did not see the need to negotiate the issue of nationalizations. Well the U.S. government, and all of the Cuban exiles who left in the 1960s, are still waiting 45 years later. Face it my friend, the property is gone.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on September 30, 2004 by Gregory Biniowsky

    Chulo buddy…
    Now regarding your argument about “Castro stealing everything from the Cuban people”, I think you mean to say nationalizing the property of the upper and middle class in 1959 Cuba, which was a minority compared to the mass of urban slum dwellers and rural serf laborers. I work for an international humanitarian aid and development agency in Cuba and thus I am very familiar with Cuba’ world renowned social gains over the past 45 years and the abject misery that existed before 1959. Please don’t go on your rant again about this being Castro propaganda…because my sources are the World Bank, ECLAC and several UN agencies responsible for human welfare, education, and health. Chulo, nationalizing the property of the rich for the general improvement of the country IS NOT the same as “stealing from the people”. The problem is that you were at the wrong end of the stick. Sorry.
    p.s. Did you know that the property of the British and British loyalists was confiscated without compensation by the revolutionaries of the U.S. Revolution? This would mean that some Canadian descendents of loyalist have a right to claim NYC. Now this of course would be stupid, just like your argument about demanding the return of nationalized property in Cuba.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on September 30, 2004 by Ralph

    I am just, enjoying, the jabs between Mr.Chulo and Mr Prowieski
    and it seems to be they have the same stick,but they are holding it in a differentiate manner,maybe,I’m not 100% sure,
    take the middle of this issue,could be more factual,because,
    you know man,it appears to me that without a fair leniency,
    is very easy to slide in extremist point of view and at that
    very moment,the controversy is rubbish,even though is grateful
    to see punches and proddings in both directions.



  6. Follow up post #6 added on September 30, 2004 by Jesus Perez

    Chulo, you must really love George W. school of thought, “we are right and everybody else is wrong”
    To set the record staight, let me say that I am not a fan of Castro or his extreme politics, however this constant hostility and antagonism that is directed toward Cuba by the U.S. has proven to be ineffective in bringing about any change of course by the Cuban govt.
    Furthermore, the people that run the govt. in Cuba are Cubans, and while there are many dissidents in Cuba, there are also many that believe in the principles of the 59 revolution.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on May 05, 2005 by Guernica with 2 total posts

    Greetings to friends of Cuba and Greg Biniowsky,

    Greg, you’re doing a great job of jousting here - keep up the great work! 

    I am hoping to come to Cuba some time soon, and I would like to get in touch with you - can you email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)?


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