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American Businesses in a Trademark Race to Cuba

After more than half a century, the American flag once again flies over the United States Embassy in Cuba. The renewal of diplomatic relations between the two countries, announced in December, has literally thousands of businesses in a race to establish trademark protection in the "Pearl of the Antilles."

While American tourism in Cuba is still a no-go, approved travel to Cuba includes humanitarian projects, religious and educational activities, professional research and participation in athletic or public performances. Plus, the new US regulations were developed with the primary intention to allow American exporters to sell their goods directly to the Cuban private sector, rather than to government-controlled entities. In the interest of improving Cuba's infrastructure and boosting its economy, experts expect a significant increase in demand for American-made and distributed goods shipped into Cuba.

That expected demand has prompted a flurry of activity by business owners looking to protect their brands in Cuba. This is done via the Office of Foreign Asset Control, a division of the US Department of the Treasury. Since 1995, this office has worked to establish, maintain and protect or register intellectual property rights of American businesses and individuals in Cuba. But because mistakes or deliberate activities deemed OFAC violations can lead to costly penalties and even criminal charges, many US banks have refused to process Cuba-bound payments over the past decades, including those to Cuba-based trademark counsel. However, as efforts toward a relaxation of the US trade embargo against Cuba continue, many banks also are relaxing their policies on financial transactions between the two countries, making it easier for businesses to prepare for renewed trade opportunities.

There's a lot at stake for American companies and brands hoping to do business with Cuba, as the US Chamber of Commerce estimates that the embargo costs our economy upward of $1.2 billion per year in lost sales and exports. If you're one of them, keep in mind that Cuba operates under a first-to-file system, which means that the first party to file for a trademark registration has legal protection regardless of legitimate trademark interests claimed by others. So, don't wait. Call Daniel Law Offices in Orlando at 407-841-8375 or nationwide at 866-37PATENT (866-377-2836) and speak with an experienced trademark attorney today.

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