Monday, June 18, 2012

A daiquirí with no Cuban taste

For those living in other latitudes who would like to make themselves a daiquiri, it’s getting harder every day to acquire a key ingredient: authentic Havana Club rum, given the obstinate effort being made by the U.S. government to usurp this prestigious Cuban trademark. Cuba continues to defend its rights. Mónica Rodríguez, Cuba’s representative to United Nations bodies in Geneva, addressed the World Trade Organization to denounce the U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny Cubaexport the right to defend its ownership of the Havana Club trademark. This refusal allows for the definitive theft of this name, legally recognized in the United States for more than 30 years as the Cuban company’s exclusive property. In the meantime, following its usual duplicitous policy, the United States is attempting to introduce a debate within the WTO about protecting distributors from counterfeited merchandise. Is this just shameless or a simple oversight? If it is the latter, we must remind U.S. authorities that in 2002, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body ruled that Section 211 of the U.S. 1998 Omnibus Appropriations bill violated the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and regulations established in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Section 211 prevents Cuban owners from enjoying recognition of their rights to trademarks and commercial names within U.S. territory. The U.S. has done nothing to remedy the situation. There is no way to justify this behavior. It is no more than the latest episode in the country’s long-standing policy toward Cuba, of economic, commercial, financial blockade, although none the less disgraceful. Despite serious U.S. violations of international agreements, Cuba has always respected obligations established by international bodies with respect to intellectual property. If the U.S. government continues to avoid complying with these norms, it will bear full responsibility for the theft of the Havana Club trademark from its legitimate owner and any negative consequences in the mutual protection of industrial property rights which may be forthcoming, Mónica Rodríguez warned. As a result of Section 211, the Bacardi company, in an open act of commercial pirating, uses the Havana Club trademark to sell its "Cuban" rum, not produced on the island. Despite this misrepresentation in the United States, Havana Club has been a great success. It is the second best-selling rum in the world, outside of the U.S. market, and third, if sales in the U.S. are included. According to the president of Cuba Ron, Juan González, in the last 18 years, 36 million cases of Havana Club have been sold, four million in 2011 alone. Cuba is not the only party affected by this arbitrary U.S. policy. In addition to damaging the interests of Cuba’s associates, and violating international agreements, the U.S. is limiting its own citizens. The daiquiri was, for example, Hemingway’s favorite drink and is famous worldwide. According to experts, the distinctive quality of the drink is lost if genuine Cuban rum is not used. Bacardi doesn’t work. Thus, U.S. citizens are not only prohibited from traveling to Cuba, but from getting an authentic taste of the country, as well. BY DALIA GONZALEZ DELGADO

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