Gibson Guitar Brand Sues Competitor Dean
James "J.C." Curleigh, the new CEO of Gibson Brands, Inc., which owns the Gibson guitar line, filed a lawsuit against competitor Dean Guitars, alleging multiple breaches of trademark and unfair competition.
Gibson, which emerged from bankruptcy last year and later appointed Curleigh, claimed in new Texas court papers that Dean – which is owned by Armadillo Distribution Enterprises infringed seven trademarks. The document listed the shape of Gibson's Flying V, Explorer, ES and SG guitars, its “dove wing” headstock plus its Hummingbird and Moderne trademarks.
Gibson further accused Armadillo of attempting to give the impression that Dean guitars are affiliated or connected to Gibson, thus committing trademark counterfeiting. Gibson have called for profits, damages and costs from Armadillo, with the request that the profits and damages element should be “trebled or otherwise multiplied to the extent permitted by statute.”
The move follows a comment by Gibson’s director of brand experience, Mark Agnesi, who sent a message to other manufacturers: “We want you to know you have been warned. We’re looking out and we’re here to protect out iconic legacy.” Gibson social media posts containing the comment were later removed, apparently as the result of negative reaction from the playing community.
“We believe that Gibson's claims are baseless and will vigorously defend ourselves,” Armadillo said in a statement. “As the proud owner of some of the most famous brands in the music industry, we respect and value the intellectual property rights of others. But we also recognize that some things are just too commonplace and basic for one company to claim as its property.”
The statement went on to argue that some of the guitar shapes named in the lawsuit had been used by Dean for “over the part forty years." “Dean Guitars is not alone," it added. "Other guitar companies have for decades used the commonplace guitar shapes that Gibson now tries to claim exclusive rights to.”
In the filing, Gibson claimed that a cease-and-desist letter had been sent to Armadillo in 2017. “Following Gibson’s recovery from a well-publicized period of financial instability, it seems the company has escalated its complaint under the new leadership of James "JC" Curleigh, Cesar Gueikian and KKR & Co.," Guitar.com noted. "The company sent its own cease and desist in May 2019, followed by this court filing.”