Club RickenFaker / FakenBacker - Show Your Fake Rics!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Quadzilla, Jan 27, 2010.

  1. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Um, Fender offers inexpensive imports yet there are still millions of Fender clones out there. I'm not sure I understand your point?
  2. Nohrellas


    May 11, 2016
    What do you mean with "clones"? In that case only the headstock is protected. Sure, some people might buy an actual Fender copy from China but how many of those are actually around vs people just buying a Squier?
    Other large brands just make similar guitars, not copies.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018
  3. Aceonbass

    Aceonbass Commercial User

    Apr 10, 2004
    My point is that Fender body shapes have been copied so much that damn near everything out there looks like one. Mike Lull, Dingwall, Lakeland, etc...Fender actually SHOULD be making cheap exports to get some of their market back.
    As far as Rickenclones go, other than some 5 strings and double necks, they don't make anything different at all. They just steal intellectual property (heard enough about THAT lately?). That RIC doesn't make cheaper instruments only explains why this theft is so lucrative. Still doesn't make it right. PS: You can buy a 4001S for around $1350.
  4. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    This reminds me a bit of the Casablanca scene, where the French cop, having come in to Bogart’s bar, is “shocked” to see gambling going on. If you post on a Thread called “Club Rickenfaker”, you might be seeing some.... fake Rics. Get over it. Kinda goes with the territory. Having built a fake Ric (as have a few other posters on this thread) I feel like I’ve abdicated any moral high ground, I’m just another Flagrant Copyright Violator (again, a great band name), so I’ll just slum around with the other scofflaws. :D
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
  5. Aceonbass

    Aceonbass Commercial User

    Apr 10, 2004
    I watch your builds with great interest, and wonder, with your talent, what kind of forward thinking RIC inspired original design you could come up with.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  6. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I thought @mapleglo did a great job with her builds using her take on the headstock, I aspire to such graceful design! When I finish the Hossenfeffer II, that will probably be it for Ric builds. That’s been my training in the basics of Luthiery, next I’ll try my hand at an inspired or original design. That Retrovibe is about the best take I’ve seen on a Ric without being a copy. The Chinese have made a few changes by beveling the body, 34” scale, etc., so they aren’t identical copies as it is, but I draw the line at fake TRC’s, which is an attempt to deceive.
    Ricken5er, Aceonbass and mapleglo like this.
  7. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    Weed is still outlawed in most parts of the country, but does that mean that the federal government is actually right about that (I believe the majority if people want it legalized).

    Using the example of because the government says it's illegal to make Ric copies, doesn't necessarily mean it's right. Just my humble opinion...
  8. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I won’t even attempt to argue the legalities, copyright and trademark law are pretty impenetrable, and far from black and white, it’s legal to sell them but not buy them, or buy but not sell, varying by country. It’s obviously not a priority for US customs, and rightly so, with containers of heroin, fentanyl, and weapons shuttling busily back and forth, and only a tiny fraction of it intercepted. I just have trouble seeing any direct financial harm to Rickenbacker Inc, so far at least. That’s probably not as true for other brands. My sympathies lie with the poor sap who buys a Chinabacker with a fake “Made in USA” TRC thinking he’s getting a real Ric for $400. That’s where the “victimless crime” thing dries up. I read an article recently about the American company that invented the Forearm Forklift, the straps you can use to lift a refrigerator, the Chinese just straight up ripped off a patented design, you can see the knockoffs for sale on Amazon. The company lost something like 70% of their sales and most of their workforce. If I go on Amazon right now and buy one for 1/2 the price of the original, am I a scumbag, or a savvy shopper? I really don’t know.
    HaphAsSard and Nohrellas like this.
  9. D M C

    D M C Oh good god, this again? Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2015
    North America, Earth
    This is America, dammit! You can be both!
  10. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    The Savvy Scumbag! I want my own show on the Home Network. I’m going to buy a fake Ric and Bedazzle it.
    D M C and bound'n'blocked like this.
  11. Aceonbass

    Aceonbass Commercial User

    Apr 10, 2004
    One of the problems with trademark enforcement, is the you're responsible for finding violators for law enforcement to go after. If you let stuff slide, then you lose your trademark. It's as simple as that. I know for a fact that John Hall would rather not have to deal with infringers or people selling fakers, but if he doesn't police every reasonably public infringement, he'll lose his trademark protection. RIC has less than 100 employees, so loss of their trademarks would impact their business in a big way. It doesn't mean they couldn't keep making Rick's, but then everyone could make them legally. Look at the troubles Fender and Gibson are having, and they're way bigger than RIC.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  12. @Gilmourisgod

    I wouldn't shed any tears for the "Forearm Forklift" people. They 'bought' a patent for using slings to move stuff ?? We've been moving stuff with slings for as long as we've had stuff needing moved :laugh: The key word is 'Bought',the US patent office is very good at taking cash for patents,not so good at checking if it's valid.

    If patents,IP and copyright meant anything you wouldn't see this.
    az8ujhpvlydhxjmubjpi.Jpg hulk-grill.jpg

    BTW the Australian firm Breville brought this out in 1974.

    According to Forbes, instead of protecting inventors patent legal cases allow big business to steal from them.

    The Patent Litigation Lie
  13. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    The Chinese would have ripped off Fender and Gibson regardless of any trademarks or patents, they are pretty even-handed in the blatant piracy business, they rip off everybody, all the time. Ric’s enforcement of their trademark/copyright worked against the Japanese, they play more or less by international rules, but hasn’t done squat to curb Chinabackers. In the end, I guess it’s down to personal conscience, since there doesn’t seem to be any enforcement that’s working. It’s interesting on a philosophical level, but while I bloviate on, another container of Chinabackers just ghosted through customs........knowing what horror show is in some other container, I find it hard to care much.
    DavesnothereCA and kodiakblair like this.

    HELLonWHEELS Supporting Member

    Jun 13, 2005
    Ok guys, you got me curious so I did some research on Trademark/IP law around musical instruments. Here's what I found:

    To start the US Constitution provides protection for the owners of patents and copyrights, but not trademarks. In 1946 the Lanham Act was created to protect against trademark.

    The Lanham Act prohibits “any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of a registered mark [if] such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive.”13 To measure the “likelihood of consumer confusion” caused by marks that identify competing goods, courts consider eight separate factors, often referred to as the “Frisch” factors:14

    1. Distinctiveness (i.e., “strength”) of the plaintiff’s mark,
    2. Similarities in sight, sound or meaning of the two marks,
    3. Relatedness of the two products,
    4. Likelihood of expansion of the product line,
    5. Overlap in marketing networks used by both parties,
    6. Degree of purchaser care,
    7. Any signs of actual confusion (including “initial interest confusion”), &
    8. Intent of the defendant in selecting a similar mark.

    In the case of Gibson vs. PRS, Gibson diliberated on all 8 Frisch factors, with the judge rulling in Gibson's favor.

    (i) Strength of the mark

    Judge Haynes determined that the strength of the Les Paul trademark was incontestable.56 The guitar shape was considered a “classic,” and thus unique only to Gibson.57 Due to widespread recognition of the Les Paul throughout the guitar industry, Judge Haynes concluded that Gibson’s trademark (i.e., the shape of the guitar) was “worthy of full protection.”58

    (ii) Relatedness of the two products

    Judge Haynes also noted that Gibson and PRS were “direct and primary competitors in the high price electric guitar market.”59 Both the Les Paul and PRS Singlecut were expensive, high quality guitars, and due to their similarities in appearance and design, Judge Haynes held that the goods could “be connected [and confused] in the mind of a prospective purchaser.”60

    (iii) Similarities in sight, sound and meaning; and

    (iv) Degree of purchaser care

    Judge Haynes grouped these factors together, because for this particular case, they intertwined. Judge Haynes ruled that the Gibson Les Paul and PRS Singlecut were “strikingly similar” in appearance: the displays, the horn shapes, the configuration of knob features, and use of “the effect of a sunburst color” made the products very comparable. Thus, the guitars could be viewed as confusing to the public – even sophisticated consumers.61

    (v) Evidence of actual confusion

    No satisfactory evidence of actual consumer confusion at the point-ofsale had been provided. However, based upon the Les Paul’s wide recognition within the guitar industry, and the fact that both Gibson and PRS competed in the same market, Judge Haynes determined that “initial interest” confusion (i.e., consumers approaching a PRS guitar by mistake) was highly likely.62

    (vi) Use of similar marketing networks

    Judge Haynes repeated that Gibson and PRS competed in the market of high price guitars. Because both parties “distribut[ed] their goods through the same type of retailers,” Gibson and PRS therefore used similar “marketing approaches.”63

    (vii) Defendant’s intent

    Gibson did not prove to Judge Haynes’ satisfaction that PRS actually intended to infringe on a trademark, but did find that due to Gibson’s widespread popularity and recognition in the guitar community, PRS must have at least known that the Singlecut was similar to the Les Paul. Meeting notes also offered into evidence also showed that PRS aimed to compete directly with Gibson by offering a single-cutaway shape for guitars, which had been previously absent in the existing PRS product line.64

    (viii) Likelihood of product line expansion

    Judge Haynes also took note of PRS’ plans to expand its singlecutaway line with cheaper models. This would enhance PRS’ method of competing, and “would contribute further to the confusion between PRS’ Singlecut and Gibson’s Les Paul products in the marketplace.”65 After determining that all of the Frisch factors favored Gibson’s position, Judge Haynes concluded that consumers were likely to be confused about the actual source of the PRS Singlecut guitar. Therefore, the court granted Gibson’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the PRS Singlecut infringed on Gibson’s trademarked guitar shape.66

    In the court of law a good lawyer could make a pretty good argument that a Chinese "Rickenfacker" did not infringe on Rickenbacker's trademark. It's all on at a case by case basis. It's pretty clear that anything that uses the "Rickenbacker" name would be a direct violation of trademark law, however a clearly fake Chinese version could be ok. If you don't agree speak with your $$$$.

  15. Aceonbass

    Aceonbass Commercial User

    Apr 10, 2004
    The shape of a guitar or bass in this case is "trade dress", and therefore a trademark. most of these "Chinabackers" copy the shape intentionally, and even put a truss rod cover saying Rickenbacker on them. Even if the counterfeit nameplate weren't there, the shape still infringes on a very specific trademarked shape. It's not just about confusing customers (c'mon, who'd confuse a Les Paul with a PRS Singlecut) it's about using someone else's trade dress to sell your product, and that is illegal. I personally think that the builders of these Chinabackers should and could design something similar to or influenced by a Rickenbacker bass, but they already know that the 4001 shape sells, so they copy it. It doesn't matter if most buyers know it's not the real deal, and it probably doesn't matter. The customer just wants a bass that looks like a 4001 for the cheapest price under $500 or whatever their price point is. And that's the point. They used someone else's trademark to make money, and while it's not enforceable in many cases, it doesn't change the fact that it costs jobs here, and is still stealing.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.

    HELLonWHEELS Supporting Member

    Jun 13, 2005
    For the sake of discussion I'm going to play Devil's advocate.

    1. The shape of a guitar or bass in this case is "trade dress", and therefore a trademark.

    Not sure if you read my post above, but you can't trademark a shape. There are more factors that go into infringement than shape. (See Frisch Factors above).

    2. most of these "Chinabackers" copy the shape intentionally, and even put a truss rod cover saying Rickenbacker on them

    This may be true, but there are very obvious difference in what China produces. For example most do not have neck through construction, the bridge construction is different, the electronics are all different and materials used are different. However, using the Rickenbacker name verbatim would be a clear violation of trademark.

    3.It's not just about confusing customers (c'mon, who'd confuse a Les Paul with a PRS Singlecut) it's about using someone else's trade dress to sell your product, and that is illegal.

    The law literally states customer confusion. Using another products influence to create another product is life. Companies do this all the time, how do you feel about Sadowsky ripping off the Fender Jazz? In my opinion Rickenfakers are more different to Rickenbackers then Sadowskys are different to Fenders.



    4. The customer just wants a bass that looks like a 4001 for the cheapest price under $500 or whatever their price point is. And that's the point. They used someone else's trademark to make money, and while it's not enforceable in many cases, it doesn't change the fact that it costs jobs here, and is still stealing.

    I think this is actually a great point but for the opposite reason. A person who has $500 to spend on a bass is not in the market for a real Rickenbacker, even the cheapest 4003 will cost over $1000. You could argue that there are not overlapping markets (Frisch factor (V)), therefore not taking any money away from Rickenbacker or "jobs".

    Even if it was enforceable I'm not sure how a judge would rule. The Gibson vs. PRS case precedent doesn't apply as much because they are going after two very clearly different markets (this would apply to Frisch factor VII; no reasonable person buying a rickenfaker off alibaba would be confused that it's the real thing.) In addition different construction, electronics and materials in my opinion a pretty decent case for a Chinese lawyer.

    Just so we're clear, selling a fake rickenbacker as a real rickenbacker is obviously illegal.
  17. Aceonbass

    Aceonbass Commercial User

    Apr 10, 2004
    You can actually trademark a shape, if it's specific enough (not a circle or a square, etc...). The ruling in the Gibson case simply cited different reasons why PRS was wrong. Different points of law would have been cited if PRS had actually copied a Les Paul like the Matsumoko factory in Japan did in the 70's. An example would be the Hipshot bridge for Rick basses. Initially the outline was the exact same shape as the Rock part. It didn't have to be. All it had to do is cover the routes, so Hipshot made some minor change to the shape. As for all the Fender clones (many of which are higher end instruments)...because Fender never applied for trademark protection of their body shapes during the 70's when all of the copies were being made, they lost trademark protection. Some of their headstock shapes are protected, but as I said earlier, most of the basses in the Classified section here look like Fenders. Leo said long ago in an interview I read that if he'd still been at the head of the company, he'd have sued the pants off of them. As for "Chinabackers" not being neck thru (some are) or having differently configured electronics or headstock angles, those aren't trademarkable things. A couple years ago, one of the Chinese companies that makes Rickencopies actually had a booth at NAMM out in California. They were shut down specifically for trademark infringement. This is the same reason Rick clones often have their auctions pulled on Ebay.
  18. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Well put on all sides, though as I understand it, Fender never defended their body shape copyright, so it became fair game. They must have retained rights in the headstock design, as they successfully forced Leo Fender to change it on his G&L basses. If it really is down to fake TRC’s, it’s pretty clear cut. What’s odd is that most of the Chinabackers shown on Aliexpress either obscure or deliberately blur the TRC, a pretty clear indication they know that crosses some legal line, while others are absolutely shameless about it, real Wild West situation.
  19. Aceonbass

    Aceonbass Commercial User

    Apr 10, 2004
    Yes, they do cross a line by showing the truss rod cover with the Rickenbacker logo on it. The violation goes from trademark infringement to counterfeiting goods, which legally is probably a bigger offence.
  20. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Is this thread for discussing these basses that people enjoy? Or is it for discussions about the ethics and legality of their existence?
    DavesnothereCA likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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