June 2023

In a recent legal victory, Corporación Habanos, S.A., also known as Habanos, S.A., the world’s leading marketer of premium cigars, has successfully protected its intellectual property rights. The Munich Higher Regional Court, affirming the decision of the court of first instance, ruled that terms such as “Cuba,” “Havana,” and their derivatives are geographical appellations of origin with a distinct reputation in the realm of cigars. Consequently, these terms now enjoy extended protection under trademark law.

This legal dispute arose due to the unauthorized use of terms like “Habano Seed,” “Piloto Cubano,” and others to promote cigars that originate from regions other than Cuba. In response, Habanos, S.A. took legal action in 2020 to defend the protected appellations of origin associated with its iconic products. The recent ruling by the Munich Higher Regional Court reiterates that such usage is unacceptable, even if accompanied by explanations such as “from Ecuador” or “Jalapa – Nicaragua.”

The court’s decision carries significant implications for the preservation of quality and reputation in the cigar industry. It emphasized that a seed originally cultivated in Cuba and subsequently grown elsewhere over several cycles does not possess the genetic characteristics, climate, and soil conditions that contribute to the properties and exceptional quality of Cuban tobacco. By acknowledging this fact, the court affirmed the unique position of the island of Cuba and its capital, Havana, in the production of high-quality cigars.

Furthermore, the ruling recognized the strong reputation associated with Cuba and Havana, as these names have become synonymous with the finest cigars and their components. The court acknowledged that consumers worldwide associate appellations of origin with prestigious products. This recognition further strengthens the protection of the Cuban cigar brand by preventing unfair practices that undermine its distinctive reputation.

The court also concluded that the use of terms like “Semilla de Habano,” “Piloto Cubano,” or “Habano Deckblatt” with reference to protected appellations of origin such as “Cuba” and “Havana” aims to capitalize on their reputation and prestige. This misuse attempts to transfer the idea of quality to products from different origins, which is misleading and unjust.

Habanos, S.A. has consistently emphasized that Cuban seeds are exclusively grown in Cuba for tobacco production, with their export strictly prohibited. The exceptional quality of Habanos cigars arises not only from the seeds but also from factors such as the unique climate, soil conditions, traditional craftsmanship, and the invaluable knowledge of Cuban tobacco growers. This holistic approach contributes to the brand’s special reputation and justifies the need to safeguard its intellectual property rights.

While an appeal has been brought before the Supreme Court of Justice, Habanos, S.A. remains optimistic that the two previous rulings will be upheld. The outcome of this case will have far-reaching implications, not only for Habanos, S.A. but also for the protection of intellectual property within the luxury goods industry.

In conclusion, the recent ruling by the Munich Higher Regional Court to protect the appellations of origin associated with Cuban cigars is a significant development. It underscores the importance of safeguarding intellectual properties for luxury companies like Habanos, S.A. By recognizing and upholding the distinct reputation and quality associated with the Cuban cigar brand, this ruling sets a precedent that will help preserve the integrity of the industry and ensure that consumers can trust in the authenticity and excellence of genuine Cuban cigars.

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