Empresa Cubana Exportadora v. U.S. Dept. of Treas., Civil Action No. 06-1692(RCL).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRoyce C. Lamberth
Citation516 F.Supp.2d 43
PartiesEMPRESA CUBANA EXPORTADORA DE ALIMENTOS Y PRODUCTOS VARIOS, d/b/a Cubaexport, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY, Office of Foreign Assets Control, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date27 September 2007
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 06-1692(RCL).
516 F.Supp.2d 43
EMPRESA CUBANA EXPORTADORA DE ALIMENTOS Y PRODUCTOS VARIOS, d/b/a Cubaexport, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY, Office of Foreign Assets Control, et al., Defendants.
Civil Action No. 06-1692(RCL).
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
September 27, 2007.

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Peter M. Brody, Ropes & Gray, Washington, DC, Brynn Metzger-Hare, Eric R. Hubbard, Herbert F. Schwartz, Michele M. Winneker, Pablo D. Hendler, Vincent N. Palladino, Ropes & Gray LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiff.

Eric R. Womack, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, District Judge.


This matter comes before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment [5], and plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment [18]. The Court has considered defendants' motion [5], plaintiffs opposition thereto [17], defendants' reply [22], plaintiffs motion [18], defendants' opposition thereto [23], plaintiffs reply [25], the entire record herein, and the applicable law. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; plaintiffs motion is DENIED; and this matter is hereby REMANDED to the Department of Treasury for the purpose described below.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Empresa Cubana Exportadora de Alimentos y Productos Varios ("Cubaexport") is a Cuban state-owned enterprise headquartered in Havana, Cuba. (Pl.'s Compl. 3.) The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Commerce chartered Cubaexport in 1965 "for the purpose of exporting food and other products." (Id.) In 1974, Cuhaexport adopted the HAVANA CLUB trademark and registered it in Cuba for use in connection with rum. (Id.) Two years later, it applied to register the mark in the United States, based on its existing Cuban registration, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") issued Registration No. 1,031,651 on January 27, 1976. (Id. at 3-4.) This registration lies at the heart of the present dispute.

The United States' trade embargo against Cuba, implemented in the Cuban Asset Control Regulations ("CACR"), 31 C.F.R. part 515, precludes Cubaexport from actually using the HAVANA CLUB mark in the U.S., on rum or on any other product. (Id. at 4.) The Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC"), a division of the United States Department of Treasury ("Treasury"), administers the CACR. (Id. at 3.) Both Treasury and OFAC are defendants in this suit, as are Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury, and

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Adam J. Szubin, Director of OFAC, both in their official capacities. (Id.)

In its complaint, Cubaexport lodges multiple claims against these defendants under the United States Constitution's Fifth Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Before describing the events on which these claims rest, however, the Court must outline several relevant statutes and regulations that give context to the present dispute.

1. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

In pertinent part, the Trading With the Enemy Act ("TWEA"), 50 U.S.C.App. §§ 1-44, authorizes the President to impose and administer trade embargoes during wartime. 50 U.S.C.App. § 5(b) (2007). The President has delegated this authority to the Secretary of the Treasury, who has in turn delegated it to OFAC. Regan v. Wald, 468 U.S. 222, 227 n. 2, 104 S.Ct. 3026, 82 L.Ed.2d 171 (1984). In 1963, when TWEA also applied to peacetime emergencies, President Kennedy adopted the CACR "to deal with the peacetime emergency created by Cuban attempts to destabilize governments throughout Latin America." Id. at 226, 104 S.Ct. 3026. Congress later removed peacetime emergencies from TWEA's scope but permitted the President to maintain existing embargoes, including the embargo against Cuba. Id. at 228-29, 104 S.Ct. 3026.

Generally, the CACR prohibit transactions between U.S. nationals and the Cuban government or Cuban nationals unless authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury. See 31 C.F.R. §§ 515.201, 515.305, 515.309 (2007). The Secretary, through OFAC, authorizes such transactions in two ways. See id. § 515.501. General licenses, codified in 31 C.F.R. part 515, subpart E, broadly authorize entire classes of transactions. See 31 C.F.R. §§ 501.801, 515.317 (2007). When no general license applies, [a]ny person having an interest in a transaction or proposed transaction may file an application [with OFAC] for a [specific] license." Id. § 515.801(b)(2). The applicable regulation does not dictate how OFAC should review such applications. See id. § 515.801(b)(4). It provides only that "denial of a license does not preclude the reopening of an application or the filing of a further application," and that an applicant or other interested party "may at any time request explanation of the reasons for a denial by correspondence or personal interview." Id.

Prior to 1998, the CACR included a general license for trademark registration and renewal by Cuban nationals: "Transactions related to the registration and renewal in the United States Patent and Trademark Office ... of ... trademarks ... in which the Government of Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest are authorized." 31 C.F.R. § 515.527(a) (1996). On October 21, 1998, however, in an otherwise unrelated omnibus appropriations bill, Congress exempted a defined class of transactions from that general license. Omnibus Consolidation and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, Pub.L. No. 105-277, § 211, 112 Stat. 2681 (1998). The operative provision, Section 211, states

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no transaction or payment shall be authorized or approved pursuant to [the general license] with respect to a mark, trade name, or commercial name that was used in connection with a business or assets that were confiscated unless the original owner of the mark, trade name, or commercial name, or the bona fide successor-in-interest[,] has expressly consented.

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Id. § 211(a). Thus, a Cuban national who wished to renew a trademark registration was now required to seek a specific license from OFAC if: 1) the mark had been used in connection with property expropriated by the Cuban government; and 2) the mark's original owner or bona fide successor-in-interest had neither consented nor received compensation.1 See id.; 31 C.F.R. § 515.336 (2007) (defining "confiscated").

Congress directed the Secretary of the Treasury — and through him, OFAC — to promulgate regulations implementing this exception to the general license. § 211(c), 112 Stat. at 2681-88. Accordingly, OFAC amended 31 C.F.R. section 515.527, retaining the general license as part (a)(1) and adding part (a)(2), which reads:

No transaction or payment is authorized or approved pursuant to [the general license] with respect to a mark, trade name, or commercial name that is the same as or substantially similar to a mark, trade name, or commercial name that was used in connection with a business or assets that were confiscated ... unless the original owner of the mark, trade name or commercial name, or the bona fide successor-in-interest[,] has expressly consented.

31 C.F.R. § 515.527(a)(2) (2007). OFAC did not, however, establish any procedure for determining whether part (a)(1) or part (a)(2) applies to a given mark, and indeed, nothing in Section 211 or the CACR expressly invests OFAC with authority to make this determination. See generally § 211, 112 Stat. at 2681-88; 31 C.F.R. part 515.

2. Related Proceedings

On October 29, 1993, Cubaexport transferred its rights in the HAVANA CLUB mark to Havana Club Holdings, Ltd. ("HCH"). (Pl.'s Compl. 5.) HCH renewed the registration in January 1996 for a ten-year term ending on July 27, 2006. (Pl.'s Compl. Exs. 5, 6.)

Thereafter, HCH filed a complaint alleging trademark infringement against Bacardi-Martini, U.S.A. and its affiliates ("Bacardi") in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. (Pl.'s Compl. 5.) That court determined the CACR barred Cubaexport's attempted transfer of rights in the HAVANA CLUB registration to HCH, that Cubaexport still owned the registration, and that HCH therefore lacked standing to prosecute the infringement action. (Id.) See also Havana Club Holding, S.A. v. Galleon S.A., 974 F.Supp. 302, 306-11 (S.D.N.Y.1997). Ultimately concluding HCH lacked any rights in the HAVANA CLUB mark, the court entered judgment for Bacardi. 62 F.Supp.2d 1085 (S.D.N.Y.1999). On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed, 203 F.3d 116 (2d Cir.2000), and the U.S. Supreme Court denied HCH's petition for certiorari, 531 U.S. 918, 121 S.Ct. 277, 148 L.Ed.2d 201 (2000).2

Meanwhile, Bacardi had instituted a cancellation proceeding against HCH before the PTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ("TTAB"). (Pl.'s Compl. 6.) It now claimed that because HCH, not Cubaexport, had renewed the mark's registration,

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the renewal must be ineffective. (Id.) The TTAB joined Cubaexport as a defendant and ultimately dismissed Bacardi's cancellation petition on January 29, 2004, concluding that the renewed registration was valid. (Id. at 6-7.) Bacardi appealed this decision, and its appeal remains pending before another court in this district. (Id. at 7.) See also Bacardi & Co., Ltd. v. Empresa Cubana Exportadora de Alimentos y Productos Varios, No. 04-00519, Order Maintaining Stay [74] (D.D.C. July 25, 2007) (Sullivan, J.).

Cubaexport retained the law firm Fish & Neave to represent it in the cancellation proceeding. (Pl.'s Compl. 10.) On application to OFAC, Fish & Neave received specific licenses enabling it to receive payment for its legal services and permitting its attorneys to travel to Cuba in connection with the representation. (Id.) In early 2005, Ropes & Gray LLP merged with Fish & Neave and sought to renew its legal and travel licenses. (A.R.85-88, 99-100.)...

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7 practice notes
  • Rochester-Genesee Regional Transp. v. Hynes-Cherin, No. 07-CV-6378L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
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    ...information to aid the court's understanding"); accord Empresa Cubana Exportadora de Alimentos y Productos Varios v. United States, 516 F.Supp.2d 43, 54 (D.D.C.2007); Buffalo Cent. Terminal v. United States, 886 F.Supp. 1031, 1045-46 (W.D.N.Y.1995) ("One exception to this rule [against cons......
  • Safari Club Int'l v. Jewell, Civil Action No. 14-0670 (RCL)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
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    ...indicate the agency so intended.’ "), quoting Empresa Cubana Exportada de Alimentos y Productos Varios v. U.S. Dept. of Treasury, 516 F.Supp.2d 43, 58 (D.D.C. 2007).1. The preamble contains exclusively mandatory language. An agency statement will be considered binding if it "is in purpose o......
  • Empresa Cubana Exportadora v. Dept. of Treasury, Civil Action No. 06-1692 (RCL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 30 Marzo 2009
    ...explain what process Cubaexport was afforded with respect to this particular determination." Cubaexport v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, 516 F.Supp.2d 43, 56-57 (D.D.C. In response to this Court's order, OFAC supplemented the administrative record with a second declaration of its director Adam Sz......
  • Farrell v. Tillerson, Civil Action No. 17–490 (RBW)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 16 Abril 2018
    ...in advance of the necessity of deciding them." Empresa Cubana Exportadora de Alimentos y Productos Varios v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, 516 F.Supp.2d 43, 59 (D.D.C. 2007) (quoting Three Affiliated Tribes of Ft. Berthold Reservation v. Wold Eng'g, 467 U.S. 138, 157, 104 S.Ct. 2267, 81 L.Ed.2d 1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Rochester-Genesee Regional Transp. v. Hynes-Cherin, No. 07-CV-6378L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • 24 Enero 2008
    ...information to aid the court's understanding"); accord Empresa Cubana Exportadora de Alimentos y Productos Varios v. United States, 516 F.Supp.2d 43, 54 (D.D.C.2007); Buffalo Cent. Terminal v. United States, 886 F.Supp. 1031, 1045-46 (W.D.N.Y.1995) ("One exception to this rule [against cons......
  • Safari Club Int'l v. Jewell, Civil Action No. 14-0670 (RCL)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 30 Septiembre 2016
    ...indicate the agency so intended.’ "), quoting Empresa Cubana Exportada de Alimentos y Productos Varios v. U.S. Dept. of Treasury, 516 F.Supp.2d 43, 58 (D.D.C. 2007).1. The preamble contains exclusively mandatory language. An agency statement will be considered binding if it "is in purpose o......
  • Empresa Cubana Exportadora v. Dept. of Treasury, Civil Action No. 06-1692 (RCL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 30 Marzo 2009
    ...explain what process Cubaexport was afforded with respect to this particular determination." Cubaexport v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, 516 F.Supp.2d 43, 56-57 (D.D.C. In response to this Court's order, OFAC supplemented the administrative record with a second declaration of its director Adam Sz......
  • Farrell v. Tillerson, Civil Action No. 17–490 (RBW)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 16 Abril 2018
    ...in advance of the necessity of deciding them." Empresa Cubana Exportadora de Alimentos y Productos Varios v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, 516 F.Supp.2d 43, 59 (D.D.C. 2007) (quoting Three Affiliated Tribes of Ft. Berthold Reservation v. Wold Eng'g, 467 U.S. 138, 157, 104 S.Ct. 2267, 81 L.Ed.2d 1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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