Brown-Forman Corp., citing the potential for "immediate and irreparable harm" to its whiskey sales, persuaded a federal judge to bar an Upland-based water-bottler from using the Jack Daniels name.
U.S. District Judge Carlos Moreno in Los Angeles issued a temporary restraining order preventing Aubryn International Inc. and its partner Gorman Properties, whose chief executive is named Jack E. Daniels, from using the name for its bottled water or in any other capacity.
"There is considerable confusion in the investment community," said Brown-Forman spokesman Phil Lynch.
Louisville, Ky.-based Brown-Forman argued that some investors bought Aubryn stock in over-the-counter trading because they thought the company was affiliated with the famous whiskey maker. Lynch said Brown-Forman received a number of complaints.
"It has not been a tremendous number of people," Lynch said. "But it has been enough that it has raised concerns."
The Jack Daniels name is a registered trademark of San Rafael-based Jack Daniels Properties Inc., a Brown-Forman subsidiary.
Aubryn denied in a news release last month that it infringed Brown-Forman's trademark.
Aubryn Chief Executive R. Bruce Harris could not be reached for comment. Beth Hansen, Aubryn's director of investor relations, said the company never had any intention of marketing its bottled water or other products 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 value until it peaked on June 13 when it closed at $1.08. It has since lost 36%, closing Tuesday at 69 cents.
Jack Daniels Properties filed the suit last month, alleging that Aubryn misled investors. Brown-Forman shares fell 20 cents to close at $66.20 on the New York Stock Exchange.
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Aubryn International stock rose steadily after it announced plans in early May for a bottled-water venture. The stock peaked in mid-June and has since fallen back.
Weekly closes and latest for ARBN
Tuesday: 69 cents, down 1 cent
Source: Bloomberg News