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Judge's ruling could put a damper on a Sublime reunion

November 3, 2009 |  6:35 pm


Efforts by original Sublime members Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson to reform under the Sublime name were dealt a setback today.

In a preliminary injunction passed down in Los Angeles, Gaugh, Wilson and new Sublime lead singer Rome Ramirez were ordered that they could not represent themselves as the owners of the Sublime name, said Jeremiah Reynolds, who represents the estate of original Sublime singer Bradley Nowell. The preliminary injunction was confirmed by a court reporter.

"The point we tried to make is that we encourage these gentlemen to go out and play," Reynolds said Tuesday. "We think they’re great musicians. We just don’t think it’s appropriate to call a group that doesn’t have Bradley and has a new lead singer Sublime. It’s consistent with Brad’s intentions that we seek to protect the name. The court agreed that Bud and Eric and the new lead singer didn’t have the right to go out and call themselves Sublime."

Today's ruling from Judge A. Howard Matz of the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California will be upheld until the breach-of-contract/trademark infringement civil case goes to trial, or the parties reach a settlement, Reynolds said. As part of the preliminary injunction, Gaugh, Wilson and Ramirez are said to be unable to perform or record under the name Sublime without approval and permission from the Nowell estate.

A spokesman for Gaugh and Wilson declined to comment. Thomas Brackey, who represents the surviving Sublime members, did not return calls. The injunction is dependent upon a bond of $125,000 being posted in the event it is later determined that the defendants -- the surviving Sublime members -- suffered damages as a result of the ruling. Reynolds said the bond would be posted.

Gaugh and Wilson issued the following statement: "Our goal continues to be sharing the music and message of Sublime with all of our fans around the world. We intend to take the court's advice and work on a business solution to this issue. We hope the estate follows suit so the music of Sublime can live on and be accessible to everyone."

Late Tuesday evening, the Nowell estate issued a statement of its own. "We are gratified the court ruled in our favor and found that Bud, Eric and Rome could not use the name Sublime without first obtaining permission from Brad's heirs.  We believe this will help protect and preserve Brad's musical legacy."

A re-formed Sublime, minus late lead singer Nowell, recently performed as part of the two-day Cypress Hill Smokeout festival. Yet despite what was the first major appearance under the Sublime name by original members Wilson and Gaugh in more than a decade, the drama unfolded off stage.

On Oct. 23, a day before the band played at the festival, Nowell's surviving family members distributed a statement to the media that threatened legal action if Wilson and Gaugh performed under the Sublime name.

"We have always refused to endorse any group performing as ‘Sublime,’ and now with great reluctance feel compelled to take the appropriate legal action to protect Brad's legacy," the statement read.

A statement from Gaugh and Wilson was issued that same day in response to the one from Nowell's estate, declared that there already had been unsuccessful legal attempts made to stop the band from performing.

It read, "While we all mourn the passing of our brother and bandmate Bradley Nowell some 13 years ago, Sublime still has a strong message of hope and love to share -- a  message that is especially important in these difficult times.... Brad's heirs apparently do not share this vision and do not want the band Sublime to continue and tried -- unsuccessfully -- to file a temporary restraining order to prevent the band from carrying on."

-- Todd Martens


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Photo: Bradley Nowell, left, with Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh. Credit: John Dunne Ho