TO: Barbara C. Hammerle
Office of Foreign Assets Control
Department of the Treasury
SUBJECT: CU-75835 – Ropes & Gray LLP (Havana Club) Licensing Case
This responds to your request for foreign policy guidance with respect to an application from Ropes & Gray LLP for a specific license authorizing transactions related to renewal at the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USPTO) of trademark Registration No. 1,031,651, HAVANA CLUB & Design (“Havana Club”), which is held by Empresa Cubana Exportadora de Alimentos y Productos Varios (“Cubaexport”), a Cuban entity.
On April 6, 2006, OFAC notified Cubaexport, through its counsel Ropes & Gray, that it would need a specific license from OFAC in order to pay the filing fee to renew Cubaexport’s Havana Club trademark registration. On April 7, 2006, Ropes & Gray applied for the license. On May 15, 2006, OFAC referred the specific license request to the State Department for its views on the issues raised by the application.
The State Department has evaluated this referral in light of a number of factors, including the particular facts of the case, the United States’ Cuba policy, and U.S. policy with regard to the domestic and international protection of intellectual property rights. Denial of the license application would be consistent with the U.S. approach toward non-recognition of trademark rights associated with confiscated property. Also, to the extent that registration of the trademark in this case has current or potential financial value to the Cuban government, denial of the license would be consistent with the recommendations of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba and the policy of the United States to deny resources to the Castro regime in order to hasten a transition to democracy in Cuba.
Having weighed the facts and foreign policy concerns presented by this referral, the Department of State recommends that OFAC deny Ropes & Gray’s application for a specific license authorizing transactions related to the renewal of Cubaexport’s Havana Club trademark.