Bush denies lobbying for company after donation
ORLANDO -- Gov. Jeb Bush denied reports Saturday that claimed he helped a Miami-based liquor manufacturer in a trademark dispute only after the company gave $50,000 to the state Republican Party.
"It's not true," Bush said at a campaign stop in Orlando. "There is not a connection. It is a Florida-based company that creates lots of economic activity."
The Washington Post reported in its Saturday editions that Bush wrote a letter to a political appointee of his brother President Bush, asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to "take quick, decisive action" favoring Bacardi-Martini USA.
The sequence of events has angered a Cuban-French joint venture that is fighting Bacardi over the brand name "Havana Club." Its lawyers have filed a complaint charging that the governor's intervention was an attempt to politically influence the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
The governor's letter was sent June 13 to former California U.S. Rep. James E. Rogan, the president's appointee to head the Patent and Trademark Office.
"There was no quid pro quo," said Elizabeth Hirst, Bush's spokeswoman, of the $50,000 contribution. "The governor and his staff have no knowledge of the timing of contributions."
The trademark dispute between Bacardi-Martini and Havana Club Holdings S.A., over the name "Havana Club" to describe certain rum products, dates back nearly a decade. The disagreement has bounced between the courts and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
"We asked our governor if he could represent us in asking for a speedy process to avoid further inexcusable delays," said Bacardi spokesman Jorge Rodriguez-Marquez.
Rodriguez-Marquez said Bacardi contributes to both the Florida Republican and Democratic parties.
No contributions from the company to the Democratic Party were listed on the Florida secretary of state's Web site since Jan. 1, 2001. In the previous cycle, 1999-2000, Bacardi was listed as giving $82,500 to the Florida GOP and $5,000 to the Florida Democratic Party.
In Bush's letter to Rogan, he said: "I am writing on behalf of Florida-based Bacardi-Martini, USA, Inc. to ask that the Patent and Trademark Office take quick, decisive action on a pending application" to cancel the trademark on "Havana Club."
Bush also told Rogan that "the outdated registration belongs to a company owned by Fidel Castro called CubaExport and should be canceled immediately."
Brigid Quinn, spokeswoman for the Patent and Trademark Office, said the agency does not comment on matters pending before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
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