For the last 50 years, Cuba has been an almost unreachable destination for U.S citizens. Sure, there were loop holes and ways to get there, but for the majority, Cuba was an off-limits territory. This all changed in December of 2014 when U.S President Obama declared the easing of the embargo that has placed restrictions between the U.S and Cuba. With this announcement came a whole slew of new issue involving U.S and Cuban relations including visitation, immigration, telecommunications, and of course business.
Now that the trade lines between the U.S and Cuba are starting to resurface, there is a new realization of the untapped market that lies just 90 miles from the Florida coast. Cuba, which is home to over 11 million people, has not been saturated by any U.S companies for the last half century and as businesses start to pour in, there are several vital issues to take into consideration. One such consideration is the protection of intellectual property and, in particular, trademarks.
Cuba is a “first to file” jurisdiction where the first individual or company to file a trademark will be entitled to the use of that trademark. This is in contrast to the U.S which has a “first in use” policy which makes it that whoever used the mark first is the one that is entitled to continue to use of the mark. Now that U.S companies are permitted to obtain Cuban trademarks, it is essential that companies evaluate whether steps need to be taken in order to protect their intellectual property.
So what does this mean? Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that without action that your trademark will be taken, but if you are in an industry where there is some likelihood of a cross-over between markets, then it might be a good idea to secure your trademark.
As of now, there are two ways to secure your trademark in the Cuban territory. Which way is appropriate for you depends heavily on your circumstances and it is best to consult an attorney before taking either step. One way to secure your trademark is to register your pre-existing mark with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) under the Madrid Protocol Treaty. Another way to secure the trademark is to register the mark with the Oficina Cubana de la Propiedad Industrial (OCPI), which is the Cuban equivalent of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The new developments in the U.S – Cuba relations also allow U.S companies to pay filing fees, obtaining Cuban registered agents, and to litigate to protect their intellectual property.
For more information on how to protect your intellectual property in the U.S and abroad, contact Biletsky Law.