Observations from my visit to Havana, Cuba, with the delegation from AIPLA

It’s been a crazy couple of months! Time to start catching up with my blog!

In late November/early December, I visited Cuba with a special delegation from the American Intellectual Property Lawyers Association (AIPLA).  Traveling with a general license granted by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), I feel fortunate to be among the few Americans who have had the opportunity to visit Cuba since the embargo began in the 1960s.

I was apprehensive before the trip—expecting that I would be visiting a ‘police state’ where I needed to walk with my head down and be careful about what I said and did.

Nothing could have been further from the truth!  What I experienced in Havana was a place that felt extremely safe, with warm, friendly people.  There was an abundance of rich history and architectural beauty.

Meeting with numerous lawyers and officials involved with Intellectual Property (IP), I was also surprised to learn how carefully they pay attention to respecting IP rights.  They even seek to respect the rights of American companies, when others try to “poach” their trademark rights within Cuba.  It seemed to me that they want to maintain an orderly trademark system—where marks belong to their rightful owners—in anticipation of the day when trade between the U.S. and Cuba resumes.

Growing up during the Cold War, I have always had a bias that things can’t work well under socialism.  Once again, I was surprised to see how well the Cuban people have made it work, and how well they have adapted to the embargo.  I have also learned that there have been significant reforms toward Capitalism—including allowing Cubans to sell their homes to other Cubans, and allowing Cubans to open their own businesses.

Cuban citizens can apply for a patent. However, the reality is that most patents there result from research that was conducted while the inventor was employed by an organization or agency, so any patent issued becomes the property of that entity. This is not unlike the typical scenario among researchers employed by U.S. industry, where their employer ends up owning the creations as ‘work for hire.’

There was so much to see in Havana.  I took a lot of photos!  Some of them are contained in this report, which I compiled for the AIPLA, and they have published on the AIPLA website: Cuba Pictures Report

All in all, it was a very interesting and enjoyable trip!

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