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Cohiba vs. Cohiba—General Wins Another Round

Gregory Mottola
Posted: March 28, 2013

General Cigar Co. has just won another battle in the contentious trademark war over the Cohiba brand.

After a nearly 16 year legal feud, the Cohiba case went before the United States Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) on March 14. According to a press release issued by General Cigar, Cubatabaco (owner of the Cuban Cohiba trademark) petitioned the TTAB to cancel General’s use of the Cohiba brand name in the United States. The petition was dismissed.

“The TTAB ruled that because the federal courts have held that Cubatabaco may not sell Cohiba cigars in the U.S. or acquire any interest in the Cohiba mark, Cubatabaco lacks any property interest in the Cohiba mark,” the press release said.

The dismissal is another blow for Cubatabaco, which lost a previous judgment handed down by a Manhattan appeals court in 2010. “This ruling once again affirms what we have believed all along: That Cubatabaco has no merit in challenging General’s ownership of the Cohiba trademark in the United States,” said General’s president Dan Carr.

Cigar Aficionado spoke briefly to Cubatabaco’s legal team and to Cuban cigar distributor Habanos S.A. for further remarks, but both declined comment.

Cohiba cigars were first created in Cuba after that country’s revolution and the Cuban version has never been legally sold in the United States due to the U.S embargo on Cuba. General Cigar registered the trademark in the U.S. in 1981 and has been selling a Dominican-made version of Cohiba since the 1980s. The litigation started in 1997, however, when General Cigar began nationally marketing products with the Cohiba name. Cubatabaco and General Cigar have been embroiled in the fight over Cohiba ever since.

This is a developing story. Look for more coverage at www.cigaraficionado.com. 

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Comments   18 comment(s)

Dan Leptitpede March 28, 2013 4:15pm ET

Who cares! Cuban Cohiba will always be > DR Cohiba!


Eric Schwenk March 28, 2013 8:04pm ET

Dan, you couldn't be more on point about that. Cuban Cohibas are the most sought-after cigars in the world, while Dominican Cohibas are an average but overpriced knock-off. They charge $15-20 for many of their cigars when you can get an Opus X or Padron Anniversario for the same price or less (or a Cuban Cohiba, for that matter, if you find the right source). The litigation shouldn't hurt the Cubans because anyone who knows what he's doing would not mistake the Dominican for the Cuban version.


hang_ing_chad@hotmail.com March 28, 2013 10:56pm ET

It WAS a bit "cheesey" of General, jacking this brand name. But, whachagonnado? In the U.S., there is no real clash because both versions of the brand are not on the open market. I can see how there would be a problem in markets where both versions of product exist. Btw, are there any countries that sell both kinds of same-name brands: Cohiba, La Gloria Cubana, Partagas, Por Larranaga, Punch, San Cristobal, etc., etc.?


David Dodd — Ashfield, NSW, Australia,  —  March 29, 2013 2:01am ET

It would be too much to expect a US cigar company to act honorably over such a thing as this. Their target domestic market is the uninformed and overseas where both brands might are available, you can rest assured the US tourist buyer is looking for the real Cuban, not the cheesy knock-off.


frenk.kaljeila@gmail.com March 29, 2013 3:57am ET

This ruling will only have a real consequence for Cubatabaco when the embargo is lifted. However, that would drastically change the grounds of the ruling, that "that Cubatabaco may not sell Cohiba cigars in the U.S. or acquire any interest in the Cohiba mark."

What happens then? Does General Cigar still get to keep the trademark?


Kevin Shah — Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia,  —  March 29, 2013 4:09am ET

The story will continue when the embargo lifts. And I hope this time the real Cohiba will win. I mean, why can't General choose a different name instead of riding off the glory of the Cohiba name? Guess they lack creativity in their marketing department.


Crenshaw Dubois — Bartow, FL, United States,  —  March 29, 2013 8:02am ET

If Cubatobacco really wants to badly possess a U.S. Trademark, then can the Castro regime and return that country into a constitutional republic. Furthermore, Cuba, how does it feel for someone else to steal a piece of property you think you own? Apparently, this wasn't a problem with the Castro communist regime when it nationalizing thousands of private companies when it took over the country in 1959. One good turn deserves another.


Float Dub March 29, 2013 5:00pm ET

Crenshaw nailed it.

To hell with Cuba and its regime. And shame on CA for glorifying it for 20 years.

Cohiba is the second most counterfeited brand in the world after Louis Vuitton. I can't tell you how many times I've seen clowns with knock offs they got on their trip to the Caribbean or on their cruise say "this is the best smoke ever" as if they had a palate to know the difference.

If it's fake then that is money you could have spent on a cigar most likely made by someone forced to abandon their homeland and sold by an American businessman.

If you actually happen to get a real one then you are knowingly supporting a murderous dictatorship. Fools.


John Law — Philadelphia, PA, USA,  —  March 29, 2013 11:52pm ET

While it is ironic seeing the Cuban govt suing over a copyright, I find it funny people are so self righteous in condemning people who enjoy Cuban cigars. While the Castro regime is brutal, what about all the other brutal regimes we buy goods from, namely China. And as far as Cuba returning to a constitutional republic, that's something that's hardly existed. It's not as if the Batista gov't that Castro overthrew was a legit, democratic regime.


Shad Bates — Torrington, Wyoming, USA,  —  March 30, 2013 12:36am ET

Nothing beats a Cuban Cohiba - personal favorite is Siglo III, followed closely by Robusto and then Siglo II. I smoke them, enjoy them and support only my desire to smoke more, not a murderous regime. And you know what? I shed not one tear while lighting one up!

Keep up the good work CA - supporting cigar smokers worldwide by providing meaningful, insightful and thorough coverage of all cigars.

Oh, one more thing - Float and Crenshaw, you need to be sure to stay away from all things made in China since you're denouncing anything that comes out of a county controlled by a 'murderous dictatorship.' Everyone hold hands and sing Kumbaya......




Christian April 1, 2013 4:27pm ET

Now I'm no fancy NY lawyer but it seems to me that General Cigar will be busier than a centipede at a toe countin' contest when the embargo lifts and their crap smokes will stand next to Cuban Cohibas. I say this going to cause the people more confusion than a mouse in a burlesque show.


Alexandre De Faveri — Botucatu, SP, Brazil,  —  April 2, 2013 4:32pm ET

Hey, let´s talk about "murderous countries" here, starting by the USA and all nonsense wars You were in...
About non Cuban cigars, these american companies, like this one above and Altadis, who counterfeit cuban brands like Cohiba, Montecristo, H.Upmann and othes jusk make me laugh. It´s like I start producing Jack Daniel´s here in Brazil. Is it gonna be the same stuff???? Noooo.
The only fooled ones in this story are the americans. Ohhh, I´m smoking a Montecristo made outside of Cuba. Hmmmmm, delicious!


Rudi de Groot — CALGARY, AB, CANADA,  —  April 2, 2013 6:11pm ET

Wow, this is a great thread!

Good new also for all those Cohiba shops in California! They can keep on plagiarizing the Cuban branding, selling Cohiba shirts with the Habanos SA wordmark on them : /


Ed Thesled April 2, 2013 6:23pm ET

How about this? Why doesn't General Cigar offer to stop using "Cohiba" if Cubatabaco/Habanos S.A. stops using all of the trademarks (and plantations, and factories, and equipment) that they stole back in 1961 from the real owners back in -- you, know, like Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, Bolivar, Partagas, Punch, etc., etc., etc.


Dan Leroux — Laval, Quebec, Canada,  —  April 2, 2013 11:08pm ET

General Cigar's is to Habanos SA what a Lada is to a Fiat, a poor man's copy at best. I always keep a few cheap machine made Macanudo or General Cigar's in my humidor and hand them out gladly to posers that come to my place. It's a great show, second to share with friends a few Partagas Culebras which is a decent smoke. Everybody look silly smoking a culebras,

It's a shame that CG can continue selling their garbage under the legendary Cohiba name. It's like putting a Rolls Royce sign on a Ford Fiesta and pretending it's refined!


Brian Auerbach — Oakland, CA, USA,  —  April 3, 2013 11:48am ET

Anti Castro fervor does not a trademark case make. The Cuban Cohiba trademark, as were many other Cuban cigar trademarks, was "lifted" in the spirit of anti-Castroism. General would not stand for the same if directed toward it. Just because you disagree with a government, doesn't mean you steal with impunity.

One thing is for sure: the DR Cohiba will never come close in quality to the Cuban Cohiba. At least we have that.

One more thing: CA does a very balanced job of coverage on Cuba. I generally don't like its overall slant--overt consumerism for the 1%, etc., but I have always been impressed by the coverage of Cuba. Keep it up Marvin. Maybe you get the first interview with the new presidenté!


Timothy Hodge — Aliquippa, PA, USA,  —  April 3, 2013 12:08pm ET

Very shady ethics on behalf of General Cigar. I'm ashamed to admit that as a cigar noob, I knew nothing of this before reading this article. I fell right into General Cigar's trap by assuming the Cohiba AND Partagas lines were related those produced in Cuba. Shame on me!


Steve Bowman April 4, 2013 8:31pm ET

Other than Cohiba, which is a legitimately owned Cuban brand everywhere but the US, those Cuban brands (Punch, Partagas, etc.) were purchased from the rightful pre-revolution owners by General Cigar or a predecessor company.

Fidel "liberated" those brands for the benefit of his socialist state with no compensation to the rightful owners.


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