Hendrix estate wins trademark dispute over vodka

By Gene Johnson

SEATTLE – A company that promoted “Hendrix Electric” vodka is paying $3.2 million to the estate of rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, which claimed the spirit infringed on the Hendrix trademark and was created in poor taste.

A federal judge last year sided with Experience Hendrix, the company that controls the trademark, in determining that Seattle businessman Craig Dieffenbach and his Electric Hendrix LLC didn’t have permission to use the guitarist’s image or name.

A trial was scheduled for this month to determine how much Dieffenbach should have to pay in damages. Instead, the sides negotiated an agreement by which Dieffenbach and Electric Hendrix would pay $3.2 million.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly entered a judgment for that amount last week and ordered Dieffenbach and his companies to stop selling and marketing the vodka or any other products branded with the Hendrix name.

“This judgment recognizes our family’s long-standing commitment to preserve the Jimi Hendrix legacy and artistic vision,” Jimi’s stepsister, Janie Hendrix, said in a written statement.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    Leon Hendrix, the younger half brother of Jimi Hendrix, was Dieffenbach’s business partner in the vodka enterprise. He was written out of the $80 million Hendrix estate by his late father, Al Hendrix, and Dieffenbach, a Seattle developer and Hendrix fan, financed his unsuccessful court battle to gain a slice of the money.

    A lawyer for Dieffenbach did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

    In its complaint against Electric Hendrix, the Hendrix estate said it didn’t want Jimi’s name or image used to promote alcohol because he died of a sleeping pill overdose in 1970, at age 27. Experience Hendrix does market a wide variety of Hendrix-themed items, from coasters and tumbler glasses to incense and cell-phone covers.

    Dieffenbach began marketing the vodka in purple-tinted bottles with a Jimi Hendrix likeness and signature above the label in late 2005. The estate sued him in 2007.