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Brand Awareness

So how is it that for almost every classic Cuban brand, a cigar made outside of Cuba shares its name? In most cases, it happened because a cigarmaker left Cuba after his company was confiscated and felt he still had the right to his cigar's name.

Most of Cuba's ciarmakers fled their island in the early 1960s and many began making cigars right away in adopted homes such as the Canary Islands and Miami. But it wasn't until the 1970s and later that the non-Cuban versions of such cigar stars as Partagás, H. Upmann, Montecristo and others began to be sold in the United States.

Most of the owners thought their exile from Cuba would be a short one and that they would soon be back making their old cigar brands, so there was no rush for them to create non-Cuban versions of their products. Many early cigar brands created by Cuban exiles were new names, such as Don Diego, or lookalikes of Cuban names, such as Montecruz. As the years passed, owners sold their brands to raise money.

The first major brand to get a non-Cuban version was Hoyo de Monterrey, which hit the market in 1965. The brand owner, Fernando Palicio, sold Hoyo and the Punch brand on his deathbed to Frank Llaneza and Dan Blumenthal of Villazon & Co.

The 1972 lawsuit Menendez v. Faber, Coe and Gregg—the latter an importer of Cuban cigars—was the landmark case that established the right of the cigarmakers in exile to market their versions of the brands they used to make in Cuba. The lawsuit led to the creation of Cuban Cigar Brands NV, which owned the trademarks H. Upmann, Montecristo and Por Larrañaga. The 1970s saw the creation of the non-Cuban Partagas and H. Upmann brands. In 1990, Consolidated Cigar Corp. began making Montecristos for the American market.

The Dominican Cohiba is an exception to the scenario whereby emigrants who escaped communism sold the rights to brand names they had once owned. The Cuban Cohiba was created and named in 1966, seven years after the revolution. General Cigar Co. applied to register the U.S. rights to Cohiba in 1978 and began selling Dominican Cohibas in 1980.

It always seemed that a major battle would be fought over the U.S. rights to Cuba's brand names when and if the embargo was lifted. General Cigar and Cuba are set to meet in court soon to settle the ownership of the Cohiba brand, and some dispute may arise over the U.S. rights to the other brands sold by General Cigar and Swedish Match AB, which include Partagas and La Gloria Cubana. But it appears that the U.S. rights to the Altadis U.S.A. Inc. brand portfolio will not be the source of future battles: the company, which makes and markets Montecristo, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta and Por Larrañaga cigars, is a unit of Altadis S.A., which owns half of Cuba’s Habanos S.A. and is the largest customer by far of Cuba’s cigar industry.

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