It’s the first step for a corporation, registering a brand name. American companies did not waste time in doing so as soon as President Barack Obama began to reach out to Cuba in 2014. It led to an optimism in US business, that at last, the status quo was moving forward.
Of course, everybody is waiting to see what the new American President-elect is going to do once in office. With the optimism generated by Obama’s attempts at progress, many companies in the US began registering their brands in the once forbidden country. A “let’s do it” attitude took hold. Most commentators would agree that Obama’s earlier efforts to facilitate Cuban engagement generated an enormous interest in doing business on the Island.
With that “let’s do it” attitude, Big Brand America began registering trademarks with the Cuban Industrial Property Office, (Oficina Cubana de la Propiedad Industrial – OCPI). OCPI is the government body that assesses and approves brand name and trademark registration in Cuba. The Office has had over one-thousand applications registering their logos and trademarks linked to American companies this year. The number greatly surpasses the number of applications received before Washington and Havana announced their rapprochement policy in December 2014. In that year, only 78 American brands were registered. The sudden increase in trademark registration in Cuba signified a growing optimism in the corporate world. Registrations in 2016 doubled in comparison to total registration applications in 2015. The Foreign Ministry in Cuba has said that more than 6,000 brands belonging to US companies are currently registered. This number is very significant.
The OCPI serves the same function as the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). OCPI and USPTO have been meeting and collaborating on the creation of intellectual property policies and ways to streamline the process. USPTO also took part in a number of events hosted by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and OCPI.
In addition to OCPI registered trademarks, other trademarks have registered as part of the Madrid Protocol. The Madrid Protocol is the International Registration of Marks (Madrid Protocol), a global treaty to which Cuba belongs. It is managed by the international bureau of WIPO in Geneva.
Over the course of 2015, famous companies such as Hershey’s, Twitter and Netflix applied to register their brands in Cuba. Chrysler registered some of its vehicles such as the Charger, Challenger and Compass. General Motors followed suit registering vehicles such as the Tahoe, Camaro, Buick and Cruze. American chain restaurants Chick fil A, Outback Steakhouse, IHOP and Bonefish Grill have filed their trademarks as well.
In 2o16, according to OCPI data, some of the big name corporations that applied for trademark registration were brands such as Taco Bell, Disney, Starbucks, Uber, Domino’s, Chevron, Apple, Microsoft and Bank of America. Periscope and Instagram applied to register their brands in the country in June of this year. Fossil, Abbott and Go Pro applied in August. Las Vegas casino chain MGM Resorts International applied in January. Media companies such as Showtime, MTV, Comcast, Dish Network, CBS, Univision and Bloomberg have also applied for registration in Cuba.
The rush to trademark registration in Cuba is a direct result of President Obama’s policy to relax regulations. Note that none of the corporations that have registered brands have obtained access to the Cuban market. On the other hand, big business has sensed the opportunity. Big business wants “in” to Cuba, but the recent election results has created yet another “wait and see” situation.
Trademark registrations in Cuba are valid for 1o years but maybe subject to cancellation after three years if inactive. To learn more about tariff rates for trademark registration in Cuba, visit the OCPI website at www.ocpi.cu.
Author: Zoe Veraz
Zoe Veraz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to the Cuba Business Report.