Empresa Cubana Del Tabaco v. Culbro

399 F.3d 462 (2005)

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Empresa Cubana Del Tabaco v. Culbro

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
399 F.3d 462 (2005)

Facts

Empresa Cubana del Tabaco, doing business as Cubatabaco (Cubatabaco) (plaintiff), was a Cuban company and owned a registered mark in Cuba for Cohiba cigars. In 1982 Cubatabaco began selling Cohiba cigars outside of Cuba. Due to the United States (US) embargo against Cuban goods, Cubatabaco never sold its cigars in the US. The US and Cuba were parties to the Paris Convention. The most recent version of the Paris Convention was ratified by the US in 1970. The US embargo regulations against Cuba were updated in 1996. General Cigar Co., Inc., and General Cigar Holdings, Inc. (collectively, General) (defendants) obtained a registration in the US for the Cohiba mark and sold General cigars marked Cohiba in the US from 1978 until 1987, and then again starting in 1992. Cubatabaco filed a claim in federal district court accusing General of trademark infringement and seeking cancellation of General’s US trademark registration for Cohiba and an injunction prohibiting General from advertising and selling cigars bearing the Cohiba mark. The district court concluded that General had abandoned the Cohiba mark by not using it from 1987 to 1992 and that the Cohiba mark was sufficiently well-known in the US by 1992 for Cubatabaco to have priority in asserting ownership of the mark under the Paris Convention’s doctrine of well-known marks. The district court found that Cubatabaco owned the US Cohiba mark even though Cubatabaco had not used the mark in the US. In addition, the district court prohibited General from using the mark. General appealed. Cubatabaco asserted that if the embargo would be found to prohibit Cubatabaco’s acquisition of the US Cohiba mark, Cubatabaco still had a right under the doctrine of well-known marks to obtain cancellation of General’s mark registration and an injunction against General’s use of the mark.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Straub, J.)

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