At our law firm’s panel in Miami on “Cuba in Plain English” the other day, I learned something quite fascinating from one of my very able intellectual property partners. Here it is: anyone can register any trademark in Cuba, even if they haven’t used it in Cuba, even if someone else owns and uses it in other countries. Not getting too technical, but the only exception appears to be if you are a super well-known brand name in Cuba already (like Coca-Cola (KO) or Facebook (FB)). If you file and pay a modest fee, you get exclusive rights to that name even if you don’t use it for three years. After three years, you need to file again or show you have used it (I may not be getting all the details perfectly but you get the idea).
A Retread to the 90s Internet Boom
This reminds me of the early days of the Internet and domain names when URL “squatters” earned millions for having the foresight, which was legal at the time, to register domains in the names of well known companies and marks. This is legally possible in Cuba. For example, someone has registered the NFL trademark down there- someone completely unaffiliated with the National Football League.
Thus, while many say we have to wait until the US trade embargo is lifted for most US companies to start taking action regarding Cuba, this is something that your company should be moving forward on now if they're even thinking about doing business in Cuba with a tradename or mark that’s important to they're product or service. This goes for anyone, including performing artists and many other professionals. US persons can file these despite the embargo. How do you do it? As they say, hire us and we’ll tell you! But spoiler alert – it’s not at all expensive.
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