RUM MAKER Angostura Ltd has said it has no business arrangement with American actor Michael B Jordan, who has put out a line of rum named J'Ouvert.
On Sunday, many took to social media to blast the actor's use of the word J'Ouvert to market his rum.
Pictures of a rum box set with tools to make cocktails, sample rum, and two bottles of Angostura Bitters were posted on Instagram as a part of the launch of J’Ouvert rum.
The pairing of Angostura bitters along with the statement that J’Ouvert was distilled in Trinidad and Tobago drew many to suspect or assume that Angostura was aligned to the rum.
However, a representative from Angostura told Newsday via e-mail on Tuesday, “We are, of course, not in a position to verify whether the contents of the package box set is Trinidad rum as we have only seen a package of a product launch in the media. What we can say is that we have no contractual relationship with J’Ouvert for the supply of rum.”
Angostura sells bulk rum on the international market, which can be resold by international buyers to clients around the world.
Addressing the two bottles of bitters in the box set, the Angostura representative said there were no previous discussion or agreement for bitters to be included in the package.
“The placement of Angostura’s bitters into packages has occurred in the past with product launches internationally. This does not mean that Angostura has any relationship with the product being launched.”
Critics of Jordan and the naming of his rum as J'Ouvert, have cited cultural appropriation and complained that proceeds from J’Ouvert rum would not benefit this country.
The trademark cites Louis Ryan Shaffer as the owner of J’Ouvert. Another co-owner of the company, who is said to have Trinidad roots, owns a restaurant in New York with another Carnival-themed name.
Carla Parris, entertainment and sports lawyer, told Newsday that US trademark law allows an applicant to own a brand name for a period, but the registration could be opposed, cancelled or expunged on the basis of cultural appropriation, if such a claim is successfully argued.
She said while trademark law is jurisdictional, which means that a trademark granted in a foreign territory would not stop the use in TT or any other part of the world, the TT government could challenge the trademark.
Aside for the precedent set in 2019, when celebrity Kim Kardashian had to abandon her application for the trademark Kimono for her shapewear company, following outrage by the Japanese community, the US Patent and Trademark Office cancelled multiple trademarks belonging to the Washington Redskins Football team because they were considered offensive to Native Americans.
Parris said there is an area of intellectual property law called Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCE) and Traditional Knowledge.
This, she added, refers to practices which are integral to the cultural and social identities of indigenous and local communities, embody know-how and skills, and transmit core values and beliefs.
The protection of these traditional practices is related to a country’s promotion of its creativity, enhanced cultural diversity and the preservation of cultural heritage. TT’s Copyright Act protects Carnival as a work of mas.
“It is imperative that the government ministries and state agencies who are charged with the responsibility for developing and promoting our cultural products look seriously at the matter of determining how more of our TCEs should receive distinct focus and protection in our national IP laws,” Parris said.