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Aubryn Agrees Not to Use Whiskey Name on Water

July 06, 2001|SAM KENNEDY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Aubryn International Inc. agreed Thursday not to use the name "Jack Daniels" for its planned bottled water venture or in any other capacity.

The Upland company's announcement came after a federal judge this week issued a temporary restraining order barring Aubryn and its partner Gorman Properties, whose chief executive is named Jack E. Daniels, from using the name. "Jack Daniels" is a registered trademark of San Rafael, Calif.-based Jack Daniels Properties Inc., a subsidiary of Brown-Forman Corp.

Louisville, Ky.-based Brown-Forman sued Aubryn for trademark infringement, arguing that some investors bought Aubryn stock in over-the-counter trading because they thought the company was affiliated with the famous whiskey maker. Brown-Forman spokesman Phil Lynch called Aubryn's decision, which averted a court hearing next week, "a good first step."

"It's possible that, when we can sit down with all sides, we can hammer out an agreement to end the lawsuit," Lynch said. "But so far, that has not occurred."

Aubryn Chief Executive R. Bruce Harris denied his company infringed Brown-Forman's trademark.

"Every time an investor contacted us [about the name], we said . . . that we weren't involved with the liquor company," he said.

Calling the situation "a big misunderstanding," Harris said Aubryn never had any intention of marketing its bottled water under the Jack Daniels name.

But on May 16, Aubryn issued a news release describing an agreement with Gorman "to obtain the usage rights of the name 'Jack Daniels' for products and development." The announcement spurred exuberant praise for "Jack Daniels bottled water" on Internet message boards for Aubryn stock.

From that point, Aubryn's thinly traded stock steadily increased, tripling in value until it peaked on June 13 when it closed at $1.08. It has since lost 42%, closing Thursday at 62 cents.

On Thursday, Aubryn said that to avoid any confusion in future news releases it has agreed to refer to Gorman's CEO as J.E. Daniels.

Aubryn's proposed water-bottling venture marked a drastic departure from the strategy the company outlined in a January news release. Aubryn said then it planned to move into telecommunications.

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