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Gibson’s Mark Agnesi to guitar builders: “You’ve been warned” over copyrights

Play Authentic YouTube video threatens legal action against copycat luthiers

Gibson has uploaded a video to YouTube featuring Mark Agnesi, its Director Of Brand Experience. And it’s a bit, well, odd. In the video, he warns builders that Gibson will take action against copyright infringements on their trademarked designs. The gloves are coming off at Gibson, it seems… 

Trademarks

Gibson’s latest YouTube video is entitled Play Authentic. Mark Agnesi starts off by running us through some of Gibson’s designs and trademarks. He states:

It’s a common misconception that a brand is just in a logo. The Les Paul, Flying V, Explorer, SG, Firebird, Thunderbird and ES shapes are trademarked shapes of Gibson. The design, from the components to the actual shapes are an integral part of the Gibson DNA.

He also mentions the Les Paul Custom’s Diamond headstock inlay and the 335’s Mickey Mouse ears as some notable features of the Gibson legacy.

Play Authentic

He then goes on a mini rant addressing other guitar builders: “You have been warned, we’re looking out and we’re here to protect our iconic legacy”. At one point he talks about the film and television world, saying they can “reach out” to Gibson and “work with” them. He says they should stop “taping over” the Gibson logo, arguing that even if they do, they are still not avoiding trademark infringements. Yet he also assures us that, “This isn’t about us being bullies or trying to stifle the boutique market place.” Erm, OK.

The whole video seems a bit fraught. Maybe that’s why someone posted under the video: “Are they holding you hostage Mark Agnesi? Blink twice if you are in danger.”

How will this play with the players and customers out there? I’m a little concerned that this video will do little to win new customers to the brand. If Gibson wants to protect its legacy, that starts with building build high-quality guitars, ensuring manufacturing standards are excellent and that prices are reasonable. I’m a Gibson user myself and there are reports out there of some guitars with less than perfect detail work like poorly filed fret binding, even on instruments with a premium price tag. But hopefully this will end and we are seeing a return to form for the US guitar brand.

You can watch the slightly eerie video below. Make of it what you will. What’s your reaction? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

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Good for him.  I'm tired of seeing copycats.  Every time I see someone claim they have a Les Paul, but it's not a Gibson, I laugh.  If it's not a Gibson (or Epiphone, because it's owned by Gibson) it's not a Les Paul, period...

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I find it an interesting topic. How far is too far. Like, for instance, the PRS SC 594 has a body shape that is very similar to a Les Paul, albeit still a bit different. Their Silver Sky is even closer to a Strat that their SCs are to a LP. Epiphone also had a guitar that was basically a Strat as well, so I think they are both victims and perpetrator of infringing other companies intellectual property. Are the ESPs/LTDs eclipse too close to a Les Paul? What about Heritage guitars, which was formed by former Gibson employees? Some LP copies are in the same price range as Epiphone, who receive nothing but praise regarding their QC. Forgive my bluntness, I really don't mean to be rude, especially to OP, who is constantly author of top quality posts, but I think QC standards bares no relevance in this discussion. People seem to like to compare cars to guitars, possibly because a lot of guitar players are into cars as well. Ferrari and other Italian car makers used to have terrible QC and attention to finishing details. Like buttons coming off or that would stop working in a very short period of time. That doesn't make it right for Audi or Porsche to release a identical car to a Ferrari, but with more attention to detail and better QC. I mean, I understand G&L and Music Man having a a Strat resembling guitar, and to be fair Music Man S-type guitar looks different to a regular Strat. For instance Novo guitar makes a very unique looking S-type guitar. Respect for them for being creative and trying to innovative. Fender released a two humbucker with LP controls on a Tele body and in the last few years they are trying to come up with new body shapes. Kudos to them. Now PRS is being copied too and I don't know how thrilled they are that companies are copying the original PRS design and selling the guitar at a price that undercuts their SE range and that are arguably better guitars than their own SEs. You can argue that their S2, CE and Core range are absolutely flawless, but their SE guitar, albeit amazing, are far from flawless. I've seen SE nuts so poorly slotted that they'd bind even 8 gauge strings. Trogly's reviews are awesome, but he scrutinizes Gibson to a level no guitar maker would pass.  He puts a spotlight on the fretboard and zooms in on the fretboard to a point that is bigger than what you'd see with a naked eye looking close to the board. He then sometimes concludes there are tool markings that you cannot see without the zoom, his lighting or feel it in your hand. The lack of binding in the most popular PRS models renders them easier to finish. However, the binding on my 2017 Standard T is vastly superior to the binding on my PRS McCarty. It is more rounded and therefore more comfortable, despite my preference for the McCarty's neck profile. With that said, whether the QC of Gibson is good or not, I think to be irrelevant to whether they should or nor they should be copied. Like it or not they came up with those guitars. On the other hand, those shapes and features have been around since the 50s. Even if it is patented shape and set of features, patents are not perpetual. The economic principle behind patents is to protect developers in order to incentive innovation. Without intellectual property protections, businesses would have absolutely no incentive to innovate. Because if others firms would just be able to copy the intellectual development of the innovator without having to incur any of the irrecoverable research and development costs. A patent is then design to essentially give the patent holder a monopoly on their intellectual property for a period of time in order to make it worthwhile investing on innovation. I'm not a lawyer, but I suspect that even if there was a patent on, say, the LP body shape, the patent would have run its course and the body shape became common knowledge. Again, I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know if a body shape falls into trademark or a intellectual property patent. The other interesting thing about this video is the marketing implications, again not my field. I don't know how good of a business decision that was, as it can separate opinions. But again, that is way better than litigation without a warning. Besides, those things are stupid expensive, and I don't know if they can financially deal with litigation costs. They seem to be coming back to the top so they better know what they're doing. It would be a shame to see them in financial trouble again for poor business decisions.  

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2 hours ago, pauloqs said:

I find it an interesting topic. How far is too far. Like, for instance, the PRS SC 594 has a body shape that is very similar to a Les Paul, albeit still a bit different. Their Silver Sky is even closer to a Strat that their SCs are to a LP. Epiphone also had a guitar that was basically a Strat as well, so I think they are both victims and perpetrator of infringing other companies intellectual property. Are the ESPs/LTDs eclipse too close to a Les Paul? What about Heritage guitars, which was formed by former Gibson employees? Some LP copies are in the same price range as Epiphone, who receive nothing but praise regarding their QC. Forgive my bluntness, I really don't mean to be rude, especially to OP, who is constantly author of top quality posts, but I think QC standards bares no relevance in this discussion. 

Its of no consequence to me..  These aren't my words, I was just sharing the information.

Its kind of an odd video.. As you say, who is this aimed at?.. The Chinese copies?  ESP? Go after PRS again? Small builders who think Gibson wont bother with them?

In the video Mark says its not all about the headstock logo.. From what I remember of the PRS court case, that's exactly what it came down to. The Gibson name and the headstock shape. Then as long as its not an exact LP copy which ESP and PRS aren't then that's all they are, a very similar shape with a different headstock.. Im not sure they can do anything about that?

 

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This new ownership really likes the word "iconic".  

They can't go five minutes without throwing "iconic" out there.  

Enough with the iconic, already. 

vomit.gif

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15 hours ago, LPguitarman said:

Good for him.  I'm tired of seeing copycats.  Every time I see someone claim they have a Les Paul, but it's not a Gibson, I laugh.  If it's not a Gibson (or Epiphone, because it's owned by Gibson) it's not a Les Paul, period...

 

I agree. And I'm sick of blurred out logo's on t.v.

And all of those commercials with side effects that "might include death". 

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2 hours ago, FZ Fan said:

My favorite side affect is new or worsening heart failure. First how do you get new heart failure. Cause isn't heart failure usually death. How can you worsen that?.

Yeah I saw the vid once yesterday. That guy looked way to serious.

Congestive heart failure does not mean immediate death. Perhaps it should be called something like "Partial Heart Failure" or something. 🙂

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Is the guy in the video the good guy or bad guy?  No offense to people who missed hygene class and have low personal self-awareness, but I just don't trust big shots who wear leather jackets and look scruffy on purpose.  Or maybe it's not on purpose.  ⁉️

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I look scruffy by nature but don't wear a leather jacket to play a guitar.

Too many things to scratch it up.

Now about those blue plastic Crocs someone was sporting...

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I think it was a warning that Gibson are going to attack China. They're going to bomb the Chibson factories. They're going to drop P90's on them.  Hit them right in the Kluson's and blow their chambers up. 

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afaik, it's legal for them to protect the body shape, and other aspects that make their instruments unique.  if that's what they want to do, they have the right to do it.   there's enough wiggle room in there to allow other manufacturers to get pretty similar before there is an issue.  gibby can go after chibby of it wants to, but it will amount to nothing, so i doubt that is who the video was aimed at. i suspect it may be boutique builders, and possibly folks like rondo, as well.  if they do get more agressive with other builders who are using parts of their design,  i have no beef with it, as long as they dont use intimidation tactics to scare little guys  away from doing their legit thing.

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AFIK, Gibson lost the patent/trademark battle on their body designs a LONG time ago and the only protection they wound up with is the head design. 

I disagree and thing the whole body should have been trademarked, and IIRC the court decision was due to Gibson not attempting to protect body design very early on and the body was considered some sort of "public domain" design. 

That's IMO an idiotic stance for a court to take. 

I too am tired of seeing EXACT copies of Gibson models. 

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On 15 June 2019 at 5:20 AM, LPguitarman said:

Good for him.  I'm tired of seeing copycats.  Every time I see someone claim they have a Les Paul, but it's not a Gibson, I laugh.  If it's not a Gibson (or Epiphone, because it's owned by Gibson) it's not a Les Paul, period...

I dunno...say Epi's machines stamp out a bunch of $99 plywood 'Les Paul tribute 100 junior custom specials' at the factory in Outer Mongolia whilst a master luthier builds a sympathetic Goldtop that Les himself would shed a tear over...a corporate takeover derived peesa gets the stamp of approval but not the artisan's masterpiece.

The shape is iconic in the guitar world and there are already gazillions of non-Gibson versions in existence (some exceptional). Maybe they should focus on people not being able to use 'Gibson Les Paul' and leave it at that. [confused]

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They will spend more money trying to bring legal action then they probably realize.  These laws have always been in place, so what changes because Gibson finally decides to say something?

The problem is beyond an easy fix right now.   Unless US Customs is going to start getting involved,  and how easy is it to get around THAT? IMHO the flow of fakes will not stop.

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Well.....Tokai, Heritage and Maybach come to my mind. I couldn't watch the video either.

I don't get it, with Tokai for example the cost is amost the same, (sometimes even more expansive) specs are pretty similar. Why would someone choose it over an original?

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1 hour ago, Mr. C.O. Jones said:

Well.....Tokai, Heritage and Maybach come to my mind. I couldn't watch the video either.

I don't get it, with Tokai for example the cost is amost the same, (sometimes even more expansive) specs are pretty similar. Why would someone choose it over an original?

I think it's that they are different enough where they don't infringe a copy right.  I think Heritage is in a case all it's own anyway..   and besides, they don't have "Gibson" on the head stock like the MIC counterfeits do.

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I, too, believe the only thing which the courts would uphold - as was the outcome when the case was first tested 40-odd years ago - would be the peghead shape and logos etc.

I see the video is no longer 'active' but I did watch it when it was first posted and, at the time, wondered if the clip and the comments therein were cleared with Gibson's lawyers before release. To say that "...the actual shapes are an integral part of the Gibson DNA..." would leave Gibson themselves wide open to copyright infringement court cases from Fender - for the likes of the Gibson's US-1 and numerous Epi Strat-shaped instruments - and Martin  in relation to, for example, the J-60, Hummingbird and, essentially, every square-shouldered Dreadnought Gibson has ever made.

Perhaps the deactivation shows that someone, somewhere, has given the matter - and the potential ramifications of going down this route - a little bit more intelligent consideration?

Pip.

Edited by pippy
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51 minutes ago, pippy said:

I, too, believe the only thing which the courts would uphold - as was the outcome when the case was first tested 40-odd years ago - would be the peghead shape and logos etc.

I see the video is no longer 'active' but I did watch it when it was first posted and, at the time, wondered if the clip and the comments therein were cleared with Gibson's lawyers before release. To say that "...the actual shapes are an integral part of the Gibson DNA..." would leave Gibson themselves wide open to copyright infringement court cases from Fender - for the likes of the Gibson's US-1 and numerous Epi Strat-shaped instruments - and Martin  in relation to, for example, the J-60, Hummingbird and, essentially, every square-shouldered Dreadnought Gibson has ever made.

Perhaps the deactivation shows that someone, somewhere, has given the matter - and the potential ramifications of going down this route - a little bit more intelligent consideration?

Pip.

 

I was thinking the same thing with the Victory model etc. All the USA makers have all copied each other. Except Rickenbacker, who are the most brand paranoid of all. 

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1 hour ago, FZ Fan said:

Right, I thought The Acoustic Guys were nuts, but Ric owners are looney.

I think you're onto something there...

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I’ve peeked at the Ric forum before and FZ is definitely right..

 

Ric has gotta be the least watered down of any guitar related brand from the old days though. 

 

Theres Chickenbacker

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3 hours ago, FZ Fan said:

I had a 4003 Bass for a while and was on their forum back then to learn about Rics. Talk about a touchy bunch. Those guy are all Ric's, or nothing.

 

They don't have any choice. Its a police state over there. 

PRS is the weird one. Its still a police state but its run by the trustees. 

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On 6/17/2019 at 1:53 PM, Mr. C.O. Jones said:

Well.....Tokai, Heritage and Maybach come to my mind. I couldn't watch the video either.

I don't get it, with Tokai for example the cost is amost the same, (sometimes even more expansive) specs are pretty similar. Why would someone choose it over an original?

Shhh….

https://www.reddit.com/link/c1p9kc/video/zhucj5uxvx431/player

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