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11-May-2006
General Sues Over Dominican Cohiba

General Cigar Co. sued several companies and individuals yesterday, accusing them of selling counterfeit Cohiba cigars in the United States, according to a complaint filed by General. This is believed to be the first time General has sued to stop an alleged producer of counterfeit Cohibas.

The suit is aimed against Cohiba Caribbean's Finest Cigars, a brand made in the Dominican Republic. In the 18-page letter of complaint, General accused the brand's distributor of trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, unlawful importation and a host of other charges in the U.S. District Court of Nevada.

"The idea would be to stop them from continuing to ship cigars," said Gerry Roerty, vice president and general counsel of General Cigar. He said General also wants to get the cigars "removed from the shelf."

General's Cohibas feature a logo with a prominent red dot. Cuban Cohibas have a series of black and white squares above the word "Cohiba," a style that Cohiba Caribbean's Finest Cigars has apparently mimicked, according to a black-and-white scan on General Cigar's complaint.

Phil Restifo, chief executive officer of Data Commodities Ltd., one of the companies named in the suit, is a distributor of Cohiba Caribbean's Finest Cigars. The Nevada company (which is incorporated in The Bahamas, according to the suit) is also a distributor of liquor. Restifo said the cigars were made in Santiago, Dominican Republic, by a factory called Don Rivera.

Restifo said he had yet to see a copy of the lawsuit, but stood by his right to sell the cigars. Carlos Rey, whom Restifo said was the head of the Don Rivera factory, declined to comment about the suit via e-mail, referring questions to Restifo.

While this is the first time General has sued over another Dominican Cohiba, it's hardly the company's first court battle over the name. Cubatabaco, the state-owned company that owns Cuba's cigar brands, sued General Cigar in 1997 over Cohiba, the start of an eight-year battle between the American and Cuban companies. In 2004, a U.S. judge cancelled General's trademark, a ruling that was reversed on appeal in 2005, giving General Cigar the U.S. rights once again.


Source: Cigar Aficionado