With the opening of doors to business in Cuba, U.S. brand owners should take steps to make sure their trademarks are protected.
Unlike in the U.S. (and many other jurisdictions), where trademark rights are based on use, trademark rights in Cuba accrue to the first party to file to register a trademark. Any party can file for trademark registration, even if that party has never used, or does not even intend to use, the mark. Due to the risk of third parties beating a U.S. trademark owner to the Cuban register, and the potential of the party then holding the U.S. trademark owner hostage over its marks, U.S. trademark owners that anticipate doing business in Cuba should take steps now to register their marks.
Trademarks can be registered in Cuba by filing with the Oficina Cubana de la Propiedad, through local trademark agents. An IP exception to the current embargo against Cuba allows US businesses to pay filing fees and retain local agents in Cuba in order to protect their intellectual property rights.