April 28, 2015: As relations between the United States and Cuba continue to transform, corporations are beginning to realize the potential to expand their businesses into a country that once was off limits. Selling goods and services in Cuba means that corporations will want to have their brand name and products trademarked in Cuba as part of a brand protection strategy. Of note, Cuba has a different trademark system than the United States. The United States has a first to use trademark system whereby using the trademark gives the owner rights, even if the trademark is not formally registered. In contrast, Cuba utilizes a first to file system where priority stems from the applicant being the first to register the trademark with the Cuban trademark office. This system creates more of a race to submit applications and ensures that you are the first to file your mark.
Those who already have trademark rights through the Madrid Protocol may request an extension of protection into Cuba, which is a member of both the Madrid Agreement and Madrid Protocol. Brand owners may also file applications through Cuba’s national application.
As trade relations expand, we strongly recommend considering registering your trademarks in Cuba; and to act sooner than later. The Cuban trademark process is notoriously slower than the U.S. process; sometimes taking years to obtain a registration.