The name of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix is at the centre of an emerging legal battle surrounding its use on a vodka brand.

Experience Hendrix, the family-run company founded in 1995 by Hendrix's father, James Allen Hendrix, has filed a lawsuit alleging that companies owned by businessman Craig Dieffenbach have unlawfully used Jimi Hendrix trademarks in the Hendrix Electric brand of vodka.

The complaint, lodged yesterday (6 March), alleges that Dieffenbach and his companies intend to deceive the public into believing that Experience Hendrix has authorised the sale of the vodka and other products.

The suit charges that Dieffenbach, Electric Hendrix and other companies he controls have committed trademark infringement, false advertising and other unlawful acts through their marketing of the vodka brand as "a Jimi Hendrix family company".

"We are gravely concerned that there may be a perception that Experience Hendrix has, in some way, authorised this sale of vodka," said Janie Hendrix, CEO of Experience Hendrix. As a matter of strict policy, we have never promoted an alcoholic beverage. In view of the circumstances of my brother Jimi's death, this attempt to associate his name with the sale of alcohol beverages amounts to a sick joke."

The complaint also claims that, in his advertising and promotion of Electric Hendrix vodka, Dieffenbach has "wrongfully used not only the image and name of Jimi Hendrix, but also archived photos of Jimi's band The Jimi Hendrix Experience".

Speaking to the press yesterday, Dieffenbach said the lawsuit has no legal basis because a 2005 federal court ruled that Experience Hendrix does not own the rights to Jimi Hendrix's name and image - just his music.

Electric Hendrix has the trademark rights for alcohol, coffee, perfume, casinos, hotels and financial products, Dieffenbach claimed.