Celebrity-backed spirits have always been a curiosity. Why anyone would buy a product simply because the name of someone famous is attached to it is beyond me.
At least I don't have to wonder about Electric Hendrix Vodka anymore.
A federal judge in Seattle has ordered the vodka, named for the late rock legend and Seattle native Jimi Hendrix -- who died in 1970, pulled from store shelves, all advertising and marketing of it to be stopped, and $3.2 million in damages paid for trademark infringement.
That, dear readers, is a whopper of a decision.
The legal wrangle has been going on since Seattle businessman Craig Dieffenbach and Hendrix's half-brother, Leon Hendrix, began marketing Electric Hendrix Vodka in 2005. The purple-tinged bottles carried an image of the iconic guitar player with a large Afro haircut.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly gave the vodka company 10 days to comply with the order. The ruling permanently barred Electric Hendrix from commercially using, advertising or challenging the trademarks and logos controlled by Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix, two companies owned by the Jimi Hendrix estate. The judge also barred the vodka company from registering identical or "confusingly similar" trademarks to those owned by the estate, according to court documents.
Zilly initially ruled in the estate's favor in October, but Dieffenbach filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, court documents say. The two sides entered a settlement agreement in December, and Dieffenbach's appeal was voluntarily dismissed. The matter returned to Zilly's court, where he issued a permanent injunction and awarded $3.2 million in damages.
The lawsuit, originally filed in 2007, ends a long dispute between different factions of the Hendrix family over the estate. The musician died without a will, and his estate went to his father, Al Hendrix. Janie Hendrix inherited control when Al Hendrix, her adoptive father, died in 2002. Leon Hendrix, who was cut out of the will by his father, took Janie to court in 2004 for a share of the $80 million estate. Dieffenbach funded Leon's court battle.
Do celebrity endorsements affect vodka purchasing decisions? Sobieski Vodka had a camera crew ask bartenders and patrons people that question. View the video here.
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