Cubatabaco wins European cigar wars

Sweden

Swedish Match and Cubatabaco have signed a settlement agreement, ending several proceedings across Europe for infringement of the designation of origin 'Havana'. Swedish Match agreed to stop using the name 'Wilde Havana' for the cigars its subsidiaries have been producing and distributing since the 1970s.

Cubatabaco is a state-owned cigar maker which has manufactured and distributed Havana brand cigars ever since Fidel Castro nationalized Cuban industry in the early 1960s. Cubatabaco launched several proceedings in a number of European countries against subsidiaries of Swedish Match, claiming that use of the word 'Havana' for cigars that are not made in Cuba and do not contain 100% Cuban-grown tobacco constitutes an infringement of its trademark rights relating to geographical indication, pursuant to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs).

Before the cases proceeded through the courts, the two parties reached a settlement whereby Swedish Match agreed to rename its cigars 'Wilde Cigarros'.

This case is of particular interest as it shows the increasing importance of designations of origin. TRIPs requires signatory states to protect designations of origin. Also, while EU Regulation 2081/92 'on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs' offers protection for the designations of origin of over 400 agricultural products, it only protects goods from non-member states that are subject to an agreement with the European Commission.

Peter Skoglund and Henrik Bengtsson, Advokatfirman Delphi & Co, Stockholm

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