On April 6, 2010, the District of Delaware ruled in favor of defendant Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. in a false advertising action brought by Pernod Ricard USA LLC. This was the latest development in a lengthy dispute over the right to use “HAVANA CLUB” on rum, in the United States.
In finding that Bacardi U.S.A.’s rum labels were neither false nor misleading, the Court pointed to two alternative interpretations regarding the scope of “geographical origin” as used in Lanham Act Section 43(a)(1)(B). One interpretation was that “geographical origin” would implicate the place of manufacture. A broader interpretation would take “geographical origin” to encompass the source of a product’s heritage or some aspect of a product’s history. The Court indicated that it reached the same result under both alternatives, due to the prominent display of the actual place of manufacture (Puerto Rico) on the labels as well as a clear demonstration of the product’s Cuban heritage (Bacardi was originally a Cuban company, and the recipe for its Havana Club rum was derived primarily from a historically Cuban recipe).
The Opinion also provides an interesting summary of related prior litigation which includes various issues associated with the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
District of Delaware Opinion issued April 6, 2010 [some additional navigation may be required]