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Habanos, Cubatabaco Dispute Xikar's Use of 'Havana'

Habanos S.A. and Cubatabaco, the government-owned companies that bring Cuban cigars to the world, have filed legal papers with the United States Patent and Trademark Office objecting to Xikar Inc.'s registration of the name "Havana Collection" for its cigar accessories.

The Notice of Opposition, filed jointly by the Cuban companies on September 24, presents several arguments against the trademark.

Habanos and Cubatabaco contend that the consumer public would be deceived, and therefore confused, if Xikar were allowed to continue using the words "Havana Col-lection" on its cigar accessories. This, the papers argue, would damage the reputation of the Cuban organizations by deceiving the public into thinking that Cuban goods are now available in the United States.

At the root of the contention is the word "Havana" and what it connotes to consumers.

Cuba claims the word "is used, recognized, and understood throughout the world, includ-ing in the United States, by both cigar consumers and within the cigar industry, to denote Havana's most fa-mous export —cigars." Havana is also the capital of Cuba and, according to the papers, carries geographic weight with consumers because they will believe that Havana Collection products were made there.

The Cuban companies claim Xikar's reg-istration of "Havana Collection" too closely re-sembles the registered marks "Habanos Unicos Desde 1492" (Unique Cuban Cigars Since 1492), "La Casa Del Habano" (The House of Havana) and "Habanos."

Xikar expressed its disapproval of the actions taken by the pair of government-owned Cuban companies in a recent press release.

"We aren't referring to cigars in our application—just our accessory products—and we're using English 'Havana Collection' to denote the style and culture of Havana," said Kurt Van Keppel, president of Xikar, which is based in Kan-sas City, Missouri. "It's ludicrous that they would attempt to stretch their registration into a different language and meaning, representing different products and in a country where it's not even legal for them to conduct business."

For more on this trademark controversy, see the current Cigar Insider.