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Holy cow! Gibson sues PRS and wins!

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Benjamin Strange, Mar 15, 2004.

  1. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I know it's about some g**tar companies, but I thought it was relevant. Isn't Fender trying to trademark their body shapes as well? Could this be a landmark case in the instrument manufacturing world? Will Shadowsky, Lakeland, etc., be forced to change their shapes?

    Ugh... I think this is just stupid:

    March 13, 2004

    Gibson Guitar Corp. in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has won a trademark infringement case against manufacturer Paul Reed Smith. The claim involved Gibson's Les Paul single cutaway guitar with a body design which Paul Reed Smith used without permission or compensation to Gibson. This case declared that Paul Reed Smith infringed Gibson's valid trademark.

    Gibson Guitar claimed that the Paul Reed Smith "Singlecut" guitar infringed on the company's trademark which is registered for its Les Paul single cutaway guitar. Included in the claim is the fact that the Paul Reed Smith model unjustly used the Les Paul design and would cause confusion in the marketplace and damages to Gibson Guitar, the amount of which now will be determined in the next phase of the proceedings.

    Gibson Guitar has manufactured guitars and other musical instruments for more than 100 years, and its premier product, the Les Paul guitar, has been sold continuously since 1952. The Gibson Les Paul is named after the successful recording artist of the same name, who has been the leading proponent of the electric solidbody guitar since the early 1940s. Les Paul, the artist, and Gibson Guitar hold a long standing relationship. Gibson Guitar also sells lower-priced versions of its Les Paul guitar under the brand name Epiphone.

    Gibson's Les Paul single cutaway guitar is traditionally shaped with a portion removed from the body of the guitar where the lower section of the fingerboard meets the body of the guitar. The term "single cutaway guitar" denotes that portion of the guitar between the neck and its lower part, that appears to be missing from the natural, round body contour. The removal of this portion forms what is often referred to as the "horn."

    Gibson's application to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to register its "Guitar Body Design" in July 1987 was approved. In March 1999 Gibson filed a "Declaration of Use and Incontestability of a Mark" and the USPTO approved that filing in September 1999.

    Gibson claimed that Paul Reed Smith began production of its "single cutaway" guitar called the PRS "Singlecut" in January 2000 in an effort to market a guitar that looked just like the Gibson Les Paul.

    Paul Reed Smith advanced multiple arguments as to why its guitar design did not violate Gibson's registered trademark shape. None of the arguments succeeded in convincing Federal District Court Judge William J. Haynes. In a 57-page decision Judge Haynes ruled "that PRS [Paul Reed Smith] was imitating the Les Paul" and gave the parties ninety days "to complete any discovery on damages or disgorgement of PRS's profits on the sales of its offending singlecut guitar."
  2. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I don't know if Gibson invented the single cutaway guitar, but the PRS does look very Les Paulish, down to the control knobs.

  3. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Interesting... That PRS looks like a serious competitor for Gibson Les Paul dollars. Good for Gibson I say - they have to protect their brand. I wonder what this will mean for other high end Les Paul copies? :meh:
  4. OrionManMatt


    Feb 17, 2004
    I think they'd rather go after PRS and shoot them out of their market if they can. Boutique guitars don't offer as much of a "threat" to them.

    That's fine with me, I can't stand anything from PRS post 1995-ish, actually somewhat holds true for Les Pauls too. The occasional one I like, but on the whole no-no.
  5. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    It's all... so... confusing!!! :help:

    I think most people are like me in just wishing that some simple logic would apply to the issue of copying the 'great' electric guitar and bass designs.

    I think it makes perfect sense that the classic Fender and Gibson designs are proprietary and the companies should be able to legally protect them.

    On the other hand, the genie has been out of the bottle for many, many years now (heck, I owned both a Hondo sunburst Les Paul knockoff and one of the legendary Ibanez P-basses as a teen). Trying to put the cork back now -- or putting the cork on selectively, just doesn't make a lot of sense...

  6. hmmm, I wonder if Ted McCarty (former Gibson President, who died in 2001) would have obstructed Gibson's legal action, being friends with PRS (and having a PRS sig. model)?

    re. the PRS singlecut looking "exactly like a Les Paul"- more curved body- totally different headstock with straight string pull.
    what about those Les Paul replicas built by Heritage, the former Gibson employees?
  7. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    They kick butt!! My brother has a Heritige hollow body and it is amazing. He used to have two but sold one because he didn't play it.
  8. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    My roommate has a heritage, it would be a great guitar if it wasn't in such crumby condition, electronics falling off, cracks in the body, consistently out of tune...etc.
  9. Actually, Paul Bigsby designed the Bigsby/Travis guitar in like 1947. One could argue that he owns the "Les Paul" body style and the Fender Peghead.
  10. Electricmayhem


    Dec 18, 2003
    Interesting news...

    I'd have to say that I agree with Gibson, too.
  11. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    You know what's coming up next, don't you?

    The "F" company, you know, the one that makes the "P" and the "J", will start suing the "S" out of everyone... :crying:

    ...and cite this as precedent.
  12. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    what about those Les Paul replicas built by Heritage, the former Gibson employees?

    I believe an arrangement was made at the time of the Gibson move, but I could be wrong. I own an early Heritage myself, and it's not too Paul-like, although it is a single cut.
  13. Brendan

    Brendan Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I hope Gibson oversteps their bounds severly and lethally next. I've no love for their buy'n'make-crap movies, and honestly don't like their guitars from a playing perspective (roomate has an original '57 gold top).
  14. Baofu


    Mar 8, 2003
    I was told that when Gibson finally got the uniqueness of the Les Paul confirmed in 99, companies producing singlecuts had to pay, howver PRS decided not to...

    I'm sure I'm leaving details out, but I think PRS saw it coming.
  15. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I've played both the PRS Singlecut and many Les Pauls, and they don't feel the same at all to me. Sure, they kinda look the same, but the PRS is much sexier in my opinion, much sleeker, but the Les Paul is a rock icon. Besides, the Singlecut is like their other models, only without a top cutl. Don't tell me that those were stolen from Gibson too.
  16. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    What I want to know is what's going to be copyrighted next? Scale length? 25.5" scale guitar makers pay Fender while Gibson gets the rest of the money?
  17. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    I really doubt that this will hurt PRS at all since their "bread & butter" are the double cutaway (which certainly is too different from a Strat for Fender to care) models. I don't think I've ever seen anyone with a single cut PRS and about a good 60% of the guitarists I know are playing PRS (I probably thought it was a Les Paul :p ) and the local PRS dealer, who has nearly a hundred PRSs in stock has only one single cut on the wall.

    It's (was) just an option for them, not a big seller.

    Fender, however, could inflict some heavy damage on companies due to how many of them live off of Fender type designs that look a lot more like Fenders (to the point of often identical dimensions and interchangable parts) than the PRS single cut looks like a Les Paul.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Yup - there are so many high-end or custom basses that are blatantly advertised as "Jazz" basses - i.e. they are a copy of a Fender Jazz!!

    Fender might even be able to give up making basses and live on the money they make from suing every other manufacturer who makes "Jazz" basses!!! :eek:

  19. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Jeez, maybe I'm visually challenged, but that doesn't look at all like a Les Paul. Anyway, trademarking body shapes sounds a bit unreasonable. How close is close? PRS could argue that the top of their guitar isn't "flat" like a Les Paul, so does that mean that they can use a single cutaway, or is Gibson's trademark for any body that uses a single cutaway (in which case, the list would be too long for one post). And the other day I heard that DiMarzio has a trademark on cream colored pickups (or maybe it was pickup covers, I forget which). Is this all as ridiculous as it sounds? What it sounds like is "unfair competitive advantage". Seems to me that a strong case could be made that no other guitar is "exactly like" a Les Paul.
  20. PhatBasstard

    PhatBasstard Spector Dissector Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2002
    Las Vegas, NV.
    A Les Paul has a slightly rounded top (although not as pronounced as a PRS) doesn't it? Maybe it's been a while since I held one.

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