A Senate bill introduced recently, if approved, will repeal a 1999 Act barring U.S. courts from hearing claims by foreign nationals asserting rights to trademarks associated with expropriated property.  The bill would also allow U.S. farmers and ranchers to export their products to Cuba and open travel by all Americans to Cuba.  The bill, S. 1089, Promoting American Agriculture and Medical Exports to Cuba Act of 2009, was presented by Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and 14 others.

Section 211 of the FY 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Act bars U.S. courts from hearing claims by foreign nationals asserting rights to trademarks associated with expropriated property.  It also bars the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from renewing such trademark registrations.  In 2001, however, the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that Section 211 violates WTO rules because it applies only to foreign nationals, not to U.S. citizens. Section 211 also violates the Inter-American Convention on reciprocal trademark protections. Section 9 of the 2009 Act would repeal Section 211 and bring the United States into compliance with international intellectual property obligations.

lugar_obamaWith regard to the agricultural exports, Senator Lugar stated, “Indiana farmers’ annual agricultural exports are increasing and have exceeded $2.4 billion in value.  Access to the Cuban market, located near the United States in our own hemisphere, will be a valuable opportunity for Hoosier grain, livestock, and vegetable producers, as well as Indiana’s overall economy. I remain committed to increasing trade opportunities for Indiana’s farms and businesses.”

The Indiana Intellectual Property & Technology Law Blog will keep you updated on whether this legislation is passed.