LV businessman banned from use of Cohiba name

A federal court has ordered a Nevada businessman to stop using the Cohiba name on cigars and rum, and awarded the brand owner, General Cigar Co., almost $770,000 in damages plus legal costs.

The business owner, Philip Restifo, said Friday that he was complying with U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval’s June 30 order, which banned importing, marketing, distributing and selling “Cohiba Caribbean’s Finest” cigars and rum.

“As of the 30th, we stopped the sales of the rum and pulled down our Web sites,” Restifo said. He said he stopped selling the cigars after Cohiba brand owner General Cigar filed a trademark infringement and counterfeiting lawsuit in May 2006.

Restifo, owner of COHIBA Caribbean’s Finest and Data Commodities of Las Vegas, did not say how he would pay legal costs and damages.

Restifo said he sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection four days before the ruling, in which the judge awarded triple damages based on estimated and actual receipts for “Cohiba Caribbean’s Finest” cigars and rum from 2000-2006.

Restifo also filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection two months before General Cigar filed its lawsuit.

Others named in the General Cigar Co.’s lawsuit included a Restifo employee in Las Vegas, a client in South Carolina and R&E Cigars of Spring Hill, Tenn. They were later dismissed from the lawsuit based on agreements with the company.

Gerry Roerty, General Cigar vice president and general counsel, had called Restifo’s businesses the most aggressive among several Cohiba counterfeiters in the nation. Cohibas are among several brands of Cuban heritage premium cigars imported from Latin America because of the U.S. ban on trade with Cuba.

In a statement issued Thursday, Roerty said the ruling showed his company, based in New York and Richmond, Va., was the only legitimate owner of the Cohiba trademark in the U.S.

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