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'Let Obama stop them!

Published:Sunday | September 28, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Jessica and Nigel Haughton who have been banned from using the name 'Jamaican Almonds'.-Photos by Claudia Gardner
Mairs
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American attorney urges Jamaica to engage the US president to protect 'Brand Jamaica'

Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator

WESTERN BUREAU:A California-based attorney has recommended that the Government of Jamaica approach the United States government to seek assistance in preventing Brand Jamaica to be trademarked by Americans.

The attorney, Terryl Mairs, who also operates T's by the Sea Restaurant in Industry Cove in Hanover, weighed in on the protection of the country's name following a Sunday Gleaner report of a case in which an American businessman wrote to the country's foremost almond farmers, Nigel and Jessica Haughton, barring them from using the name 'Jamaican Almonds'.

The letter which came from the businessman's Kingston-based attorney indicated that, among other things, "the Trademark Application for Jamaican Almond has been awarded an official United States Patent & Trademark (USPTO) registration ... which precludes anyone from using those words on any corporate names, brand names, domain names, trademark applications, and/or trademark registrations for or including the 'Jamaican Almond' trademark in the United States without prior written approval".

But Mairs said the protection of the name 'Jamaica' in the US should not be a complex matter, as both countries have close diplomatic ties. She said similar to how Jamaica has acceded to treaties initiated by the United States in the past, it should not be very difficult for the country's government to make an appeal to the Obama admini-stration for the name 'Jamaica' to be protected there.

"With Jamaica and the United States, there is reciprocity. There are things the United States expects and negotiates with Jamaica, and extradition is one ... we experienced that a few years ago with (Michael) 'Dudus' Coke, and so on," said Mairs.

"So the idea is, that what Jamaica should be doing is to go to the United States government and say 'look, anything that is so important to the culture; to the economy of Jamaica, needs to be exempted out of the normal trademarking rule that is so cut-throat in the United States ... so that the people here are helped, not hindered, in exporting a product as long as they meet the health standards, the packaging standards - whatever is required to send goods from Jamaica to America'."

Use of name

Mairs said despite the businessman having offered the Haughtons the option of using the name 'Jamaican Almond' for five years at $1 per year, there was no way of telling what could happen at the end of the period, and that other Jamaicans would still be excluded from using the name.

"So when someone outside of Jamaica now is going to the United States and attaining a trademark for Jamaican Almond - because as far as the Haughtons are saying, he just raced to the US and got it trademarked because he knew it was going to be a big market for them - the problem is that while it may be, on a technical basis, legal for him to do that, this is a limited market in Jamaica. Jamaica needs money; it needs its name protected," declared Mairs.

"Because what the Haughtons are also saying is that what he is doing now is coming and basically trying to impede on their business - their ability to sell, to profit, and so on. And while he has offered them to use the name for a dollar a year, what happens at the end of the five years?

"No one should be allowed to buy that and own that name to the exclusion of anyone else."

Mairs said the Jamaican government could present a case to the US, arguing that failure to protect the name could have other far-reaching effects, as other Jamaican manufacturers could suffer, as their legitimate products could be barred from entering the US by owners of carbon-copy products.

"This government should be saying 'look, you are opening up a can of worms; you are opening up potential illegalities here for Jamaican products coming in, and we want that name to be free. We do not want it to be owned by anyone ... Jamaica gets this US relief and Jamaica appreciates that, but we are throwing up a flag and saying please help us in this area as well'," said the attorney.

claudia.gardner@gleanerjm.com