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A federal trademark court dismissed Miami-based Bacardi U.S.A.’s long-running claim to the Havana Club rum label in a decision that also absolved Florida Gov. Jeb Bush of accusations that he improperly sought to influence the head of the U.S. trademark office to resolve the case in Bacardi’s favor. For Bacardi, Thursday’s ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board means that the U.S. rights to the Havana Club label will remain with a Cuban corporation called CubaExport. A Bacardi spokeswoman in Miami on Friday said the company disagrees with the ruling and is considering its options. CubaExport has sought to transfer the U.S. rights to the Havana Club name to Havana Club Holdings S.A., a joint venture owned by Cuba and French liquor giant Pernod Ricard. HCH already owns the Havana Club trademark in about 180 other countries. For Bush, it means that there will likely be no further probing by HCH’s American lawyers into the lobbying of federal officials in 2002 by the governor and his staff on Bacardi’s behalf. Two of the trademark officials lobbied by Gov. Bush were political appointees of his brother, President George W. Bush. The governor’s lobbying work, first reported by the Miami Daily Business Review, was detailed in dozens of e-mails made public by the governor’s office in October 2002. HCH accused the governor in trademark court filings of using illegal “political pressure” to help Bacardi. A Bush spokeswoman said the governor was merely trying to help a local business. The governor’s e-mails flowed, however, while the world’s biggest rum maker and its Miami executives were pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the political war chests of Gov. Bush and the Florida Republican Party — more than $200,000 since 1998. That included a $50,000 contribution to the GOP two weeks before Gov. Bush wrote a letter to James E. Rogan, then director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, urging a swift and favorable ruling for Bacardi at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The board is part of the patent office and the director, who has the power to select patent judges, is a political appointee of the president. The trademark court’s ruling also exonerated Rogan, who stepped down last month, and another top patent official, Jon Dudas, who was lobbied on Bacardi’s behalf by Gov. Bush’s office. Dudas replaced Rogan and is now acting patent office director. “Simply put, the evidence submitted with HCH’s original motion does not persuade us that there is cause to grant the relief HCH seeks, i.e. issuing a show cause order or requiring full disclosure by the petitioners, Gov. Bush, [ex-PTO] director [James] Rogan and Mr. Dudas,” the court said in its 56-page ruling. Bacardi filed the case with the trademark court in 1995 but it remained dormant for years while related litigation proceeded in a federal district court. In 2002, Bacardi reactivated the case and asked the trademark court to cancel CubaExport’s U.S. trademark for Havana Club.

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