Date: November 2009
Author: Cigar Inspector

Tatuaje sued by Altadis USA

UPDATE: the lawsuits have been settled.

We haven’t seen a huge lawsuit in the cigar industry for a while, and here it is (it’s a few months old but I thought I should share) – Goliath, Altadis USA, against David, Pete Johnson from Tatuaje. The object of the lawsuit is the Fleur de Lys symbol, present both in the Tatuaje logo and in the logo of non-Cuban Montecristo cigars.

With all the lawyers Altadis have and considering the fact that they used the Fleur de Lys before Tatuaje, for me it is unlikely that Pete Johnson will be able to win this case. Some fervent supporters of Tatuaje have already created a petition to boycott Altadis products.

What is your opinion? Is Altadis right to protect its intellectual property (is the fleur de lys a defendable property?) or they are just jealous of Pete Johnson’s success?

18 thoughts on “Tatuaje sued by Altadis USA

  1. As far as the trademarkability of the Fleur de Lis that is impossible, there is however something called Trade Dress Protection which protects a company from having another company use similar packaging etc that could possibly confuse mislead the consumer into buying a product, Altadis has very little chance of winning the TDP angle…as well.

  2. This particular symbol originated in France in the early crusade period. There for if any one has the right to sue others over it’s use it should be the French Royal Crusaders. Who I am fairly positive are all dead.

  3. Folks, read up on trademark law. Altadis has registered the name Montecristo with its accompanying artwork for cigars, and a dozen other items. Anyone who infringes the name or mark as far as cigars runs afoul. Fleur to Lis in a non-infringing use (sports team, pianos) doesn’t run afoul because the consumer wouldn’t minstakenly confuse the NO Saints (which isn’t a cigar) with a Montecristo (which is a cigar). The same can NOT be said about potential confusion of a Tat vs. Monte cigar…

  4. I wonder what would be a list of the most common cigars that Altadis puts out, obviously the DR Montes but what else?

    I was wondering when this was going to come to a head.

    And BTW,Tats are some of the best cigars available on the US market IMO.

  5. Do serious cigar smokers actually smoke Altadis cigars? They only have a handful of decent smokes.

  6. Can you boycott something you’ve never had? lol

    altadis smokes suck and I think most informed smokers would agree with that. Tatauaje smokes, on the other hand, may be some of the best NCs out there…. Long live Pete!

  7. In fact, Altadis *cannot* sue Orleans Saints or other companies using the Fleur de Lys because they are not in the same industry.

    Things are obviously different when it comes to Tatuaje – both companies sell cigars. This is why Altadis *can* and probably *will* win the case.


  8. As said before, the Fleau-de-lis has be used for many other items. No one can trademark it.
    This is a case whereby, big guy fighting little guy. Altadis, has not case and if I was Peter, I would fight them and counter sue.

  9. I was wondering whether they would set their sights on France…

    Of course, the goal is not *really* to win per se, but rather to bankrupt anyone who might try to defend…

  10. Exactly, here is another example.

    This cigar is named after a Liner ship that burned off the coast of New Jersey. Should the owners of that ship sue for using the name?

  11. does altadis want to sue the new orleans saints too?

  12. Ridiculous display of power. This is a complete non-sense issue. Both cigars have their names printed on the brands, and the brands themselves are completely different, not leading to any confusion (unless you’re a retard, of course). This is really sad to know.

  13. This just stinks of the big dog picking on the puppy. Altadis has been sued many times themselves. So I have mixed feelings about this. Is the Fluer-di-Lis a trademarlable item? It appears in many family crests fromthe old countries. Cam I sue them for using it without my permission, it has appeared in my family crest since the early 1600’s, way before they started using it or even existted. On the other hand, Peter should ahve had the insignia researched before he started using it. There are attorneys that do just that kind of research to prevent trademark infringements. I usually do not smoke the big name brands as they are too expensive, so a boycott form me would not really affect there bottom line.

  14. So…
    If Pete doesn’t settle and looses in court. Will the court mandate removal of his tattoos? ;~)

    I’m all for brand protection, but this is hardly infringement.
    Note to Atlantis: You’re not loosing market share to boutique cigars because of a cigar band…its what’s in the band!!!

  15. That is true, but only more recently so. If I’m not mistaken, Altadis used those brand names before the owned 50% of Habanos SA. The hypocrisy of Altadis behavior, for me anyways, is still the most upsetting factor of the whole thing.

  16. Evan, keep in mind that Altadis USA (which is actually owned by Altadas SA, which is actually now owned by Imperial Tobacco Group PLC), owns 50% of Habanos SA (which is the company that sells and markets all Cuban Brands).

    They can use they can use the names and similar designs because they own it. That being said, it should be pointed out that General Cigar Company owns the rights to the Dominican Cohiba line and one could argue that The Altadis Siglo series is a blantent ripoff of the Dominican Cohiba look. Much more than the Fleur-De-Lis is.

  17. Well said Stephen. I think this lawsuit is ridiculous and I actually think Altadis is likely to lose if this goes to court. Not to mention the irony that over half of Altadis’ brands are in fact themselves blatant knock-offs of Cuban brands. While it is not illegal for them to use the name Montecristo in the US, the ethical hypocrisy here is really obvious and outrageous. I too rarely smoke products from Altadis, both because I find them to be poor generally speaking, and I don’t like the idea of supporting a large cigar company who rips off Cuban brands while putting out a sub-par product. Needless to say, there is no chance that I will be smoking any Altadis products in the future. This lawsuit is shameful and is only going to hurt one of the best innovators in the industry. I really hope Pete doesn’t settle this case out of court, because as Stephen said, the Fleur de Lys is not a registrable trademark under US law. I just can’t wait until Altadis sues the Saints football team.

  18. It’s long been stated by the trademark commission that certain shapes, icons and symbols are not able to be trademarked. Included in this list are squares, circles, ovals, chevron stripes and yes, even the Fleur-de-lis. It is a symbol that has been around for to long and used for to many purposes and it is the primary reason no company can trademark it.

    That being said, it is not impossible to use it in a copyright case. However in this case, if it makes it to court and is not settled outside of it, Altadis would have to prove that people are in fact mistaking Tatuaje Cigars for Montecristo Cigars.

    On paper it’s not as easy as it sounds. Given that the amount of money Altadis generates from Montecristo is much greater than Pete brings in with his brands and the current state of the economy it would be hard to tie any kind of drop off in numbers to the use of the symbol.

    That being said, it should also be noted that the symbol is not the only differentiating mark. Both have their names emblazened on their products and boxes.

    One thing to put something like this into perspective, when we’re talking something that can’t be trademarked is this. At one point, cigars did not even have Cigar Bands. Someone decided to do it and then everyone followed suit. Would this than mean that the first person who did it could sue everyone else because now buyers may think every cigar with a band is his brand?

    I presume Pete will likely settle this out of court, some people have even said he already has and simply must remove the symbol from future lines (existing lines can still have it). Regardless, this is a flexing of the muscles by a giant, that in the time of anti-smoking legislation should not be piling it on, but instead fighting the real beast.

    I don’t smoke Altadis products, I never have. I will continue not to. Fighting your fellow businessmen when they are not causing any real damage to you leaves a bad taste in this smokers mouth.

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