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Top U.S. business lobby welcomes Senate proposal to abolish Section 211.

The National Foreign Trade Council is praising a new bill in the Senate that aims to help U.S. companies protect trademarks registered in Cuba, while preventing Cuba from becoming a haven for counterfeiting and trademark encroachment.

The bipartisan U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act was introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID). Similar legislation in the House has more than doubled its sponsorship to 19 members since its introduction six months ago.

"We commend Senators Baucus and Craig for introducing this comprehensive legislation aimed at protecting the more than 5,000 American trademarks registered in Cuba," said Bill Reinsch, president of NFTC, in a prepared statement.

Currently, he said, these trademarks are vulnerable to counterfeiting and infringement, thanks to a five-year-old special-interest law known as Section 211.

"This legislation, if enacted, will repeal Section 211, thereby removing any pretext for the Cuban government to deny the registration and renewal of U.S. trademarks. This is absolutely critical to protecting valuable U.S. trademarks and domain names in Cuba."

The NFTC and many other groups have long argued that Section 211 violates U.S. commitments under both the WTO's TRIPS agreement as well as the Inter-American Convention for Trademark and Commercial Protection. The bills also provide a mechanism for U.S. companies to monitor the accuracy, reliability and stability of the Cuban government's trademark registration and renewal process.

Said Baucus: "This bill will bring the United States into compliance with the WTO, and will re-establish the United States as a credible leader in the global protection of intellectual property rights."

Among other things, the bill directs the Bush administration to initiate consultations with the Castro government to obtain assurances that Cuba will continue to comply with its obligations to protect and honor U.S. trademarks and trade names in Cuba under the Paris Convention, the Inter-American Convention, and the Madrid Agreement and Protocol; it also seeks to pressure Cuba to follow internationally recognized procedures for resolving disputes over Internet domain names.

Finally, the bill directs the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to assist U.S. companies seeking to protect and enforce their rights in Cuba by establishing a registry of U.S. trademarks registered or submitted for registration in Cuba since Jan. 1, 1959, and a registry of U.S. trademarks in Cuba that meet the requirements for well-known marks as of Dec. 31, 1958.

Details: Jody Frisch, Director, US/Cuba Business Committee, National Foreign Trade Council, 1625 K St. NW, Suite #200, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: (202) 887-0278 x119. E-mail:
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Title Annotation:U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act; U.S.-Cuba Trademark Protection Act
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:Cuba maintains trade links with Spain despite Fidel's angry tirade against EU.
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