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January 29th, 2015
Protect Your Trademarks in Cuba Now
With President Obama's December 17, 2014 announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, a number of travel and trade restrictions with Cuba have been lifted, with more expected to follow. Cuba is on its way to becoming a potential area of expansion for U.S. companies.
Any U.S. company that may want to do business in Cuba in the future should consider protecting its trademark rights in that country without delay. While an exception to the embargo has permitted U.S. entities to file for trademark protection in Cuba (and pay related filing and attorney fees) since 1995, most have not had a business reason to do so until now. Trademark "squatters" in Cuba are already capitalizing on the changing tides by registering well-known U.S. trademarks for the purpose of reselling their rights to U.S. trademark owners at a premium. Early filing is key to avoiding this.
Trademark "squatting" is a particularly difficult problem to address for two main reasons. First, trademark rights are geographically limited in nature, which means that a company's ownership of trademark rights in one country generally does not give it rights in any other country. Second, Cuba is a "first to file" country, meaning that trademark rights arise from registration, and use of the trademark is not a prerequisite to registration. Because of that, a trademark squatter can register a mark in Cuba with moderate effort and investment, then rely on its registration to stop the U.S. owner from using the trademark in Cuba.
Squatter registrations can be very expensive to acquire, not to mention time consuming, costly and difficult to cancel. Proactivity helps to avoid this problem. The time to consider registration in Cuba is now.
For more information about protecting your trademarks in Cuba, please contact Catherine M.C. Farrelly at 212-826-5579 or CFarrelly@fkks.com, Rachel Kronman at 212-705-4855 or RKronman@fkks.com, or any other member of the Trademark and Brand Management Group at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.
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