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Three powerful members of Congress who received campaign money from Miami-based Bacardi USA put pressure on the Bush administration to help the rum giant in its long-running trademark dispute over the Havana Club rum label. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, and Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., each sent nearly identical letters to Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans in November 2001, seeking to influence the outcome of then-pending administrative proceedings over the rights to the Havana Club trademark. According to information that emerged during Senate Judiciary Committee proceedings, the letters urged Evans to intervene and cancel the Havana Club trademark registration held by CubaExport, which is owned by the Cuban government. Those proceedings at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, an agency directly under Secretary Evans, pitted Bacardi against French liquor titan Pernod Ricard and CubaExport. Bacardi was seeking the right to use the Havana Club rum label in the United States. Before and after the three members of Congress sent their letters to Evans, Bacardi money flowed to the political causes of the three members. Political groups controlled by DeLay received the most — $43,000, according to records kept by the Internal Revenue Service and the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Jonathan W. Dudas last month disclosed the existence of the letters after inquiries made during Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation proceedings. Dudas has been nominated by President Bush to be director of the Patent and Trademark Office. He currently is acting director. In a related development Tuesday, outgoing Texas Congressman Chris Bell, D-Houston, filed an ethics complaint with the House that accused DeLay of backing a pro-Bacardi bill in exchange for a $20,000 contribution in July 2002 to his political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority. “In exchange for Bacardi’s financial support, DeLay has pushed a piece of legislation — often referred to as ‘the Bacardi bill’ — that would alter U.S. trademark rules to benefit Bacardi,” said the complaint that seeks an investigation of that and other allegations against DeLay by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. The bill is opposed by numerous other U.S. businesses including Kodak, General Motors and DuPont who fear it could damage existing trademark protections. The disclosure of the letters is the latest revelation in the emerging story of Bacardi USA’s long-running lobbying campaign to win the rights to sell Havana Club rum in the United States. Bacardi sought the cancellation of CubaExport’s U.S. trademark registration for Havana Club. That would have short-circuited proceedings before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and allowed Bacardi to press its own application to register the Havana Club mark. But Secretary Evans declined to cancel CubaExport’s registration. In response letters written to DeLay, Bonilla and Hollings in late 2001 and early 2002, Evans said he didn’t have the authority “to take the action you have suggested.” Last January, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board dismissed Bacardi’s claim to the Havana Club label. Bacardi is appealing that decision in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Bacardi spokeswoman Patricia Neal said she did not know whether anyone at her company had asked the members of Congress to write those letters. But she said that Bacardi enjoys broad, bipartisan support on Capitol Hill on a number of issues. “Some members feel strongly about certain issues and write letters,” she said. Neither DeLay nor Bonilla’s offices responded to telephone requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Hollings said there was no connection between Bacardi’s contribution and his letter to Evans. “He’s a longtime advocate on trade issues and he believes that [Cuban leader Fidel] Castro had no right to these trademarks,” said spokeswoman Ilene Zeldin. WTO WEIGHS IN Cuba registered the Havana Club trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1976 after its former owners let it lapse in 1973. Havana Club Holdings, a joint venture of the Cuban government and Pernod Ricard, currently sells Havana Club rum in more than 80 countries. In 1997, Bacardi announced it had purchased the Havana Club trademark from its original owner, Jose Arechabala S.A. When Bacardi started testing Havana Club in the U.S. market, Havana Club Holdings filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit. But Havana Club Holdings’ lawsuit was short-circuited in 1999 when Congress, under prodding by Florida Sens. Connie Mack and Bob Graham, passed �211 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act. The law prohibits the U.S. from honoring trademarks confiscated by foreign governments. The World Trade Organization later got involved after the European Union filed suit on behalf of France in October 2000. Ultimately, the WTO held that �211 violated international intellectual property protections because it disadvantaged foreigners over U.S. nationals. The U.S. has until the end of 2004 to comply WTO rules or face sanctions. GOV. BUSH’S ROLE The disclosure of the letters from DeLay, Bonilla and Hollings that sought to influence the outcome of that legal fight came as a result of questions by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He asked Dudas about his knowledge of “press accounts” about Gov. Jeb Bush’s lobbying efforts for Bacardi regarding the Havana Club dispute. Many details of those lobbying efforts were first reported in an October 2002 story in the Daily Business Review. Bacardi USA recruited Gov. Bush in 2002 to lobby its case in Washington, D.C., with political appointees of his brother, President Bush. All the while, Bacardi officials poured tens of thousands of dollars into the treasuries of Florida’s Republican Party and the governor’s re-election campaign. Dudas was deputy PTO director in February 2002 when he met with Bacardi executive Jorge Rodriguez Marquez and a member of Gov. Bush’s staff, Melissa Freedman, to discuss the Havana Club dispute. In response to Sen. Leahy’s questions, Dudas summarized that meeting. In his written answer to Leahy, Dudas recounted Gov. Bush’s personal letter to James E. Rogan, the director of the Patent and Trademark Office, on June 13, 2002, “calling for cancellation of the Havana Club registration.” He also said that “to supplement my answer” he was providing the Judiciary Committee with the DeLay, Bonilla and Hollings letters. The letters from the three members of Congress urged Evans to have the Patent and Trademark Office cancel CubaExport’s Havana Club trademark, No. 1,031,651. In support, each cited a 1997 federal court ruling as requiring such action. But as Secretary Evans pointed out in his reply to each, that ruling did not require such an action. “The court did not order cancellation … therefore the U.S. PTO is without authority to take the action you have suggested,” he wrote, enclosing with each reply a copy of the court’s actual judgment. TIMELY CONTRIBUTIONS As it did while enlisting Gov. Bush’s lobbying support, Bacardi made large and timely contributions to DeLay, Bonilla and Hollings’ political causes. In Gov. Bush’s case, Bacardi made a $50,000 contribution to the Florida Republican Party two weeks before the governor sent his June 13, 2002, letter to Patent and Trademark Office Director Rogan. A spokeswoman for the governor previously told the Reviewthat there was no “quid pro quo.” She said Bush helped Bacardi because it’s a big employer in Florida. The dates on which Bacardi gave money to organizations associated with DeLay, Bonilla and Hollings, who is retiring this year, aren’t publicly known. Applicable federal reporting rules require only that those donations be attributed within semi-annual, quarterly or monthly reporting periods. IRS and U.S. House clerk records show that between July 1, 2002, and Dec. 31, 2001 — the time during which DeLay wrote his letter to Secretary Evans — Bacardi pumped $20,000 in soft money into DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee. It also gave $3,000 to the Tom DeLay Legal Expense Trust, an account set up to defend a civil action filed against him by House Democrats. The following July, Bacardi contributed $20,000 more to DeLay’s state political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority. That contribution to TRMPAC is a focus of a continuing investigation by a Travis County, Texas, grand jury into allegedly illegal spending of corporation contributions by TRMPAC. Rep. Bonilla’s leadership PAC, the American Dream PAC, received $10,000 from Bacardi between April 1 and June 30, 2002. Bacardi gave American Dream another $10,000 between July 1, 2000, and Sept. 30, 2000. Sen. Hollings’ leadership PAC, Citizens for a Competitive America, received a $5,000 contribution from Bacardi between Jan. 1, 2002, and March 31, 2002. There’s currently a fight in Congress about how to respond to the WTO’s ruling and sanctions threat over �211. Rep. Bonilla and Sen. Hollings are co-sponsors of pro-Bacardi bills introduced this spring that seek to bring the United States into compliance with the WTO ruling while leaving �211 in force. Rep. DeLay is not a co-sponsor, but was a key player in a failed effort last year to get the same language included in a defense authorization bill. Opponents, led by Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., are backing competing legislation to repeal �211. The National Foreign Trade Council and companies such as General Motors and DuPont are endorsing that legislation. They have expressed fears that �211 jeopardizes existing trademark protections and future access to Cuban markets. Related letters: Letter by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas Letter by Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas Letter by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C.

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