According to a BusinessWire press release, General Cigar Co. just announced the seizure of more than 3,000 counterfeit Cohiba cigars by federal and Florida state officials. The counterfeit stogies were being sold for $20 a piece out of seven tobacco shops in busy tourist areas of Key West, Florida, totaling in at a street value of over $60,000, according to officials.
“The seizure of counterfeit Cohiba cigars yesterday represents a clear victory in General Cigar’s fight to protect our cigar bands from counterfeiters and trademark infringers,” said Dan Carr, president of General Cigar, in the press release. “We look forward to continuing to cooperate with federal and state law enforcement officials in Florida and have offered to assist in any prosecutions and future investigations,” he added.
When I first read this press release, I was stoked for General Cigar, and I still am, because their Cohibas are still the only ones you can legally get in the states (and they’re damn tasty, too). But the thought occurred to me, how many counterfeit Dominican cigars does one typically come across (other than Fuente Fuente OpusX; see Cigar Aficionado’s page on the subject), especially on such a large scale? Feeling a bit suspicious, I decided to dig deeper.
Upon further investigation, I found an article on Examiner.com that basically restated the press release, so there wasn’t much there in the way of new facts. What tipped me off, though, was the picture included in the article, which clearly showed that the counterfeit Cohibas in question were counterfeits of the Cuban Cohiba, as evidenced by the box artwork and band colors, rather than General Cigar’s Cohiba.
I understand that it’s important for General Cigar to protect its trademarks in the US, but seriously, are we just supposed to pretend that the original Cuban Cohiba, which has been around for decades, simply doesn’t exist? I find this story a little hard to swallow considering the seemingly intentional disregard for the brand from which Cohiba gets its name (I’m basing this on the fact that the Cuban brand has been around 10 years longer than the Dominican one).
Blurring the facts and pretending that counterfeit Cubans are actually counterfeit Dominicans smells like a blatant PR move, and I didn’t think General Cigar would resort to that just to leapfrog over the Cuban brand, which, thanks to the embargo, isn’t even a competitor here in the states.
Anyway, congratulations and thanks to General Cigar for aiding in the seizure of thousands of presumably crappy counterfeit cigars, because it’s great to have the assurance that your cigars are genuine. Plus, nobody wants to pay $20 a stick for such utter disappointment. But come on guys, call it what it is! Maybe it’s technically an infringement on your trademark since the cigars were seized in the US, but let’s not forget where the Cohiba name came from in the first place.