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21/12/2010

Q & A with Adargelio Garrido de la Grana, Habanos S.A. Legal Director

Since the company’s foundation back in 1994, Habanos S.A. Legal Director Adargelio Garrido de la Grana has been either an eyewitness or stakeholder of all major structural changes occurred in the marketing of Cuban tobacco for nearly a quarter of a century, an experience that buttresses his efforts in defense of the company’s assets.

For this reason, his contribution to writing any piece of information on the evolution of habanos’ marketing process –especially from a legal standpoint- is priceless.

Mostly when it comes to the protection of brands and denominations of origin, two issues he’s devoted the largest chunk of his professional career to and that have forced him to get a specialization on industrial property law.

Graduated with a Degree in Law in 1982, Garrido cut his working teeth in an office at the Ministry of Agriculture in San Pedro de Manyabon, Matanzas. He joined Cubatabaco in 1987.

In February 2000, Habanos S.A., formerly a Cuban mercantile company, became a joint venture with 50 percent of the ownership in the hands of ALTADIS –the outcome of a merger between France’s SEITA and Spain’s TABACALERA, both currently owned by British group Imperial Tobacco- and the other half controlled by Empresa Cubana del Tabaco (CUBATABACO).

What’s Habanos S.A.? What’s its objective?

Habanos S.A.’s objective is the marketing of all tobacco products of Cuban origin, except cigarettes which are marketed by Brascuba, a joint venture between Tabacuba and Brazil’s Souza Cruz.

The tobacco products marketed by Habanos S.A. embrace:

  1. Premium hand-rolled cigars
  2. Machine-rolled cigars
  3. Loose tobacco

However, in order to make the most of the marketing effort, Habanos S.A. was assigned the sale of Premium cigars.

The marketing of loose tobacco is conducted by LTC, which operates through a Cuban affiliate, while machine-rolled cigars are manufactured by ICT and sold by PROMOCIGAR.

Habanos, S.A. belongs to the Grupo Empresarial del Tabaco (Tabacuba), attached to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Cubatabaco is the Cuban shareholder of Habanos S.A.

As a professional, what has been the most important mission you’ve been assigned in Habanos S.A.?

The company’s major assets are the brands and the exclusive use of Cuba’s tobacco denominations of origin.

There are 19 denominations of origin that protect the world’s finest tobacco, but the best known are Habanos, Habana, Cuba, Vueltabajo, Pinar del Río, Vuelta Arriba, Remedios, among others.

As far as brands are concerned, Cohiba is by and large the most famous. Since 1993 I’ve been in charge of managing these intangible assets which are a treasured part of the Cuban nation’s heritage.

As a lawyer, I took part in the foundation of the Cuban Mercantile Partnership and then the joint venture. This post has forced me to get a specialization in copyrighted industrial property.

I’ve also worked on the creation of the Regulatory Council of Habano Denominations of Origin.

What does the Regulatory Council do and what’s its main mission?

The Regulatory Council of the Habano denomination of origin, and other Cuban-origin tobacco denominations of origin, was created in light of Resolution 201/2009 issued by the Ministry of Agriculture. Oscar Basulto is the President and I’m the Director General.

The Regulatory Council is attached to Cubatabaco and has to do with the control, management, communication, protection and defense of Cuba’s tobacco denominations of origin.

There’s still a long way ahead of us, but the important thing is that we’ve already got going.

From a legal protection viewpoint, our job will continue focused on protecting consumers from fakery and phoniness, let alone the breach of all rights ingrained in this intangible asset. As you know, there are cigar factories outside Cuba that violate guidelines and make use of our denominations of origin to the detriment of both the owners and the consumers. They cash in on their reputation or fame to get the better of them by coming up with products of lesser quality.

Some of them in their own ads claim they use Cuban cigar rollers or seeds of Cuban origin, regardless of the fact that mentioning those things gives them no right at all because there are four factors that can’t be ignored when labeling a habano: the soil, the climate, the Cuban black tobacco seed and the expertise of our harvesters and cigar rollers. If one of those factors is missing, then that stogie cannot be labeled as a habano.

Due to all these reasons and many others, the Regulatory Council acquires paramount importance, Garrido concludes.

 


 

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