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Thread: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

  1. #1
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    Default Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Time this became public because, well, it already is.

    This has been going on for several months now and we were content with keeping under wraps what we knew but it's public now in a not so subtle way so fair game for discussing here. And don't worry, it's going to be discussed everywhere soon. Some information I'm going to link to is mainly directed at the guitar community but it is a fact that a number of prominent mandolin builders everyone here would recognize have also received threatening letters from Gibson's law firm that represents them. Sorry, not our job to share the names of those builders. We are also aware of one larger manufacturer that has received similar communication from Gibson.

    Some of you will have questions what this is all about, I'm not the person to answer those for you but others are welcome to. This is simply more of what Gibson has been doing, mostly unsuccessfully, for years.

    Quote from one of the very most famed and respected members of the vintage instrument world to me, and I'll not name him: "the new Gibson management team makes Henry look like an amateur when it comes to threatening builders with legal action."

    First, read this:

    https://www.gearnews.com/gibsons-mar...er-copyrights/

    Then watch the original video which Gibson subsequently pulled from YouTube but was downloaded and saved:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/guitars/com...pulled_off_of/

    So that we're clear here, we believe information of this nature should be shared and discussed in a mature way and by posting this here we have no interest in taking sides in the matter.

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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community


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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Po-tayto, Po-tahto...Agnesi, Avenatti... Let's call the whole thing off.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    I have never owned a Gibson product. Considering this action, I probably never will. May they achieve the bankruptcy they so richly deserve.
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    I'm not a luthier but I do have ambitions to build some day. What precautions should a builder take after reading this? No more flower pots or fern inlays?
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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Well, Gibson has not enforced its supposedly "trademarked" design for the F5 mandolin model (f-holes, carved body shape, 2 points, scroll, curlicue headstock, etc.) in almost a full century. Independent luthiers have been making F5-design-inspired instruments with these same characteristics for more than 50 years.

    Trademarks are not forever, and they are not guaranteed! Under the law, trademarks have a use-it-or-lose-it property. The brand must be properly and continuously maintained. If a trademarked item (or characteristic) loses its "distinctiveness" (e.g., gets diluted by the ubiquitous prevalence of similar copies) or becomes "generic" (think of former brand names like 'aspirin' or 'escalator') or doesn't get used for three or more years in a row (think of the torch-and-wire and flower pot inlay patterns, for example), then any associated trademark rights are forfeited. That's what the law says.

    IMO, Gibson wouldn't have a leg to stand on if it went to court claiming that it had trademarked the F5 design (or F4 or A5 or A4 designs, either). Their past failures to protect the brand aggressively over the last half century will work against them, and ensure that the F5 design remains in the public domain. This is a courtroom loser.

    This would seem to be a case of too little, too late. But that doesn't mean that Gibson's lawyers can't reach out to threaten and intimidate independent luthiers and small shops that don't have similarly high-powered legal representation, and cannot afford the time and trouble to fight back. IMO, this starts to look like a form of extortion. Shame on Gibson! May they suffer for their bad attitude.

    Support your local luthier, I say!
    Last edited by sblock; Jun-18-2019 at 4:44pm.

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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    What sblock said above... Fender did not protect its copyrights to the Telecaster and Stratocaster designs and so lost the right to do so. Rickenbacker, on the other hand, has done their due diligence and so have retained their rights.

    Gibson has been lax and ham-handed and now seems to want to put that copyright genie back in the bottle, but simply changing their corporate leadership and upping the @$$hole factor is not going to do it this late in the game. I eagerly await their courtroom losses.

    Crowdfunding for legal expenses for independents who are attacked by Mr. Agnesi and his corporate overlords, anyone?
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Some companies that aren't worried are probably the overseas ones. Gilchrist, Duff, Northfield etc.
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Wow, I had heard a lot of good things about the recent changes Gibson from various guitar YouTube channels. It sounded like things were heading in a better direction but this certainly will tarnish that in some folks eyes.
    I had no interest in a Gibson anything prior to this and will continue that on.

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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    I haven't had anything Gibson in several decades, I ended up in the Fender camp solely on tone. That being said, goofy ideas are what is killing GIBSON. The auto tuning guitar was laughable and they lost their backside on it. They desperately want to be the Harley Davidson of the guitar playing world, and inasmuch as old guys decide to take up guitar at 50, what do they buy? I meet a lot of them with Les Paul's...

    I'm not knocking Gibson, but I think things are getting desperate over there, and they are looking for anything they can lay hands on to stop hemorrhaging money.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Quote Originally Posted by zoukboy View Post
    Gibson has been lax and ham-handed and now seems to want to put that copyright genie back in the bottle, but simply changing their corporate leadership and upping the @$$hole factor is not going to do it this late in the game. I eagerly await their courtroom losses.

    Crowdfunding for legal expenses for independents who are attacked by Mr. Agnesi and his corporate overlords, anyone?
    It will be interesting to watch this play out, but I can't see Gibson taking anyone to court.

    That video was the equivalent of the cease-and-desist letter a lawyer sends when they know they don't have a case that would hold up in court, but they'll try to scare off the competition anyway. The letter (and that video) costs nothing, compared to engaging in a costly court case with a very good chance of losing. It's a maneuver intended to cause fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the market, pushing more customers to choose something with Gibson on the headstock.

    The best indication that they know they don't have a case, is that they very quickly took the video down. This smells like someone in a lower level department of the new Gibson (maybe this guy?) took an initiative, without checking with the higher-ups or the actual legal team.

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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    I doesn’t seem that copying Antonio Stradivari’s design has hurt the value of the original items. I think it can be argued both Fender and Gibson have thrived by their designs being ubiquitous. How popular is Rickenbacker beyond its retro niche?
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Well, Gibson has not enforced its supposedly "trademarked" design for the F5 mandolin model (f-holes, body shape, 2 points, scroll, curlicue headstock, etc.) in almost a full century. Independent luthiers have been making F5-design-inspired instruments with these same characteristics for more than 50 years.

    Trademarks are not forever, and they are not guaranteed! Under the law, trademarks have a use-it-or-lose it property. The brand must be properly and continuously maintained. If a trademarked item (or characteristic) loses its "distinctiveness" (e.g., gets diluted by the ubiquitous prevalence of similar copies) or becomes "generic" (think of former brand names like "aspirin" or "escalator") or doesn't get used for three or more years in a row (think of the torch-and-wire and flower pot inlays, for example), then any associated trademark rights are forfeited. That's what the law says.

    IMO, Gibson wouldn't have a leg to stand on if it went to court claiming that it had trademarked the F5 design (or F4 or A5 or A4 designs, either). Their past failures to protect the brand aggressively over the last half century will work against them, and ensure that the F5 design remains in the public domain.

    Under the law, this would seem to be a case of too little, too late. But that doesn't mean that Gibson's lawyers can't reach out to threaten and intimidate independent luthiers and small shops that do not have similarly high-powered legal representation, and cannot afford the time and trouble to fight back. IMO, this starts to look like a form of extortion. Shame on Gibson!

    Support your local luthier, I say!
    Sadly this is not so (Gibson not enforcing their mando trademarks). I recall I believe it was Ren Ferguson reminiscing about how Flatiron came to an end (and he came to Gibson employ) after a meeting at NAMM with Henry. Admittedly beyond that; I do not know about any enforcing of their trademarks within the mandolin business.

    In my opinion, this will be a tricky position for Gibson and I see why they pulled the video after the outrage. I feel the biggest issue (and I'm admittedly focusing on guitars, which I have the most knowledge about and is certainly their biggest business) is that the instruments aren't made well enough to command the dollar they are after for them. Some of the Gibson stuff runs on par monetary wise with Collings and I wouldn't give a second look to any Gibson offering that Collings has a similar build to.
    And I have heard enough luthiers/tech who's work I highly regard talk endless about the guffaws of the new Gibson's. And most I pick off of a wall a so badly set-up unless I'm at a shop where they do the work themselves...which seems such nonsense to me for instruments of such a price. And in Canada, Yorkville Music (the national distributor) has killed the lifetime warranty and limited it to a year.

    I've heard the rumblings of this for a few months now but this is the first I'm made aware of the mando community under the radar too. I hope it costs Gibson a lot of money and for not. Isn't it said that copying is the greatest form of flattery? There will always be those that want a "Gibson". I don't think they're going anywhere and as an iconic American music partner; I wouldn't want to see them go. But I do wish for the "little guys" to win in this case.

    And just as a notice; Gibson has in very recent years followed through with proposed legal action on their copyrights. Hamer had to kill their Vector (Flying V) and Standard (Explorer) models after a $1M lawsuit: http://www.musicinstrumentnews.co.uk...rademark-wars/

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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew B. Carlson View Post
    Some companies that aren't worried are probably the overseas ones. Gilchrist, Duff, Northfield etc.
    Don't make that assumption, as companies register trademarks overseas as well, and Northfield has a presence here in the US and makes some models in their Michigan facility.

    To be honest, I think that Gibson is looking not to shut down these operations, but to have other companies and builders license their trademarks. They gave Kevin Kopp (a guitar builder who used to work for them at one time in Montana) a very hard time a while back, and I believe that is what they asked for in the end. Kevin is back up and building after a lengthy negotiation.

    Collecting fees from other builders could provide a good stream of income for them, and let's be honest, they have a lot of people working there who come from venture capital and financial marketing backgrounds who believe that the same approach in making toasters works for building instruments. I've seen some of the social media comments their CMO, Cesar Guiekian has made on some guitar builder pages (Instagram) and he's just tactless. As some might say, he's a bull in a china shop. These efforts do nothing for the brand or the company's public image. Although, as was stated above, a lot of what appeared on social media has been taken down.

    Just an FYI: CMO=Chief Merchant Officer

    My old boss used to tell us when we complained about his boss that we could do worse, and we probably will. I hate to say it, but it always turned out that way. We'd trade one madman for an even worse one.

    and the last time I checked, Bank of America owned the Flatiron trademark. It was taken as collateral for loans made to Gibson, under Henry, along with Dobro, and a few others when the company was in financial (and legal) trouble and BofA started calling in loans. I have not checked the database lately, but the last time I looked it still stated that BofA owned these trademarks.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    “Director of Brand Experience”!??? I should be so lucky! What a nebulous title. So, if there is a revolution, his tail gets slammed in the door. Brilliant corporate direction.
    I feel a sense of scapegoat for this guy, no dog in the fight, no chance of it.
    I could not open the reddit link, but the two guys for the first ones make valid points, the basic one is simply:
    “If the company made better instruments at reasonable pricing more people might buy them.”
    The guy from BD Guitars needs to learn to read a little better, it was McCarty not McCartney but, that’s neither here nor there.
    I do find it interesting that there was no history prior to the Les Paul era for the guitar world in general.
    I am just waiting for a factory rep to walk into the low level gigs that I play and yank my Mandolin out of my hands.
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Sounds like they are trying to fight a battle they have already lost.
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  26. #17

    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post

    and the last time I checked, Bank of America owned the Flatiron trademark. It was taken as collateral for loans made to Gibson, under Henry, along with Dobro, and a few others when the company was in financial (and legal) trouble and BofA started calling in loans. I have not checked the database lately, but the last time I looked it still stated that BofA owned these trademarks.
    I'm sure I've seen a video as well but this link will educate you as to what I mean happened. NAMM '87 (actually 3 months afterwards) Henry put into motion shutting down Flatiron. It even discusses the woes Mandolin brothers had after Henry did it and what steps Stanley Jay took to rectify the situation: https://www.premierguitar.com/articl...ilder-1?page=2

  27. #18

    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    So much manufactured outrage! I watched the video and frankly it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me. Gibson will talk big, and will enforce what it is legally able to enforce. What it can not enforce through trademark or copyright it will try to guilt others into using their own designs, rather than the ones created and made famous by Gibson. And they will try and collect Royalties for use in other media just like Computer makers and carmakers do. I will not pretend to have enough knowledge to say whether the F5 mandolin or SG guitar designs are in the public domain, but we will all eventually find out I suppose.
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    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Makes me happy that the only corporate instruments I own (and I own quite a few instruments) are Fender and Godin.
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    The iconic Chuck Taylors really add a certain “cool” factor to the video. Certainly someone in Legal at Gibson “reached out” to Converse in preproduction, right?

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    The only thing I have seen Gibson do on the mandolin side of things over the years was to send nasty grams to a few builders regarding the flower pot, nasty grams to a few distributors over the bell shaped truss rod cover and the whole open book headstock design across the board (The Lawsuit that is famously mentioned for everything except what it was about). Do I think this was a silly video? Yeah. Will it put them out of business? No. I'm not going to set fire to my mandolin. I might consider cutting the logo out of the headstock but that would be more for the Mojo of doing what Bill did.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Makes me even happier to play my Red Diamond.

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Maybe they should spend their time working to make quality instruments that people actually want to buy? I mean, do they actually think this strategy is going to endear them to musicians? Sad!

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  37. #24

    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Interesting that they trademarked the scroll peghead and fern inlay but not the A or F body designs. The fact they waited 90 years to do that and got it over opposition, if there was any, is interesting. They are clearly Gibson designs, but lack of enforcement might be a hindrance going forward.

    No matter if they are right or wrong, they certainly aren't winning the PR battle.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson threatening the mandolin and guitar luthier community

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    Maybe they should spend their time working to make quality instruments that people actually want to buy? I mean, do they actually think this strategy is going to endear them to musicians? Sad!
    No but they might think it will endear them to their stock holders.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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