Gibson Guitar Declares Shift In IP Enforcement After Most Recent Public Backlash

from the new-leadership dept

Our past posts on Gibson Guitar, the famed guitar-maker, have revealed roughly a decade of strict IP enforcement and other busuiness challenges. Between waffling on its support for SOPA and its own failures to properly innovate in a direction that met its customers’ demand, never mind its odd legal trouble over “illegal” wood used in its guitars and the bankruptcy it underwent a few years back, we’re not left with a picture of a well-oiled business. Despite that, emerging from bankruptcy, Gibson has continued its IP maximilist ways, most notably in the past few weeks with a lawsuit against the owner of Dean and Luna Guitars for trademark infringement and counterfeiting over several guitar body designs that the defendants claim aren’t protectable.

There are two important aspects of that specific dispute to note here. First, the public backlash against Gibson over the lawsuit was firm and swift. Second, this specific dispute originated with cease and desist notices sent out by Gibson’s legal team back in 2017. That is particularly notable as it was only in November of 2018 that Gibson brought on a new CEO, James Curleigh. In the wake of the backlash over the past few weeks, Curleigh has gone out of his way to promise the public that Gibson is going to quickly move on from its IP maximilist ways.

Regarding criticism Gibson has faced for its legal actions, the company said in a statement that the past few weeks “have provided a ‘real time’ opportunity to start making the pivot from less legal leverage to more industry collaboration, with appropriate levels of awareness.” Furthermore, the company clarified that the recent attention on the lawsuits in process stem from several years of legal action initiated prior to the new leadership, headed by CEO and President James “JC” Curleigh, arriving in November of 2018. With regard to the inherited and ongoing legal dynamic with Dean Guitars, Gibson says its team has made attempts to directly communicate to “avoid a prolonged legal battle.”

Said Curleigh, “I am proud of the progress we have made with our attention to quality, with the launch of the new collections, and with our renewed engagement to our Gibson authorized dealer base. At the same time, we acknowledge there are still legacy challenges to solve going forward, especially around brand protection and market solutions.”

On the one hand, it feels somewhat lame to let a company off the hook for filing a lawsuit two weeks ago just because the cease and desists were sent out two years prior to the current CEO’s tenure. You’re the CEO, dude. Tell the legal team to not file the suit if that’s what you think it should do.

All that being said, the words coming out of Curleigh’s mouth are the right ones, as are those coming from the Gibson PR team. It’s gratifying to watch a company bow to public backlash over an overtly aggressive IP enforcement stance. And hearing the company use language that used to be reserved for the craft beer industry, back before that industry was similarly ravaged by IP enforcement, is encouraging.

He continued, “It is time to make the modern-day shift from confrontation towards collaboration, whilst still protecting our brands, and we are committed to making this happen starting now.”

What remains is seeing just how Curleigh’s Gibson Guitar wants to balance that equation. If he can shift the culture of the company towards one that is human and awesome, all while giving fans of Gibson guitars what they want, it could be a major win for a company that recently looked quite lost.

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Companies: gibson

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Comments on “Gibson Guitar Declares Shift In IP Enforcement After Most Recent Public Backlash”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Brand

There is almost no limit to the shapes (electric) guitar bodies are available in. Same for headstocks. Necks are a bit more limited but there are quite a few varieties of those, too. There is less room for variation in acoustic guitar bodies but acoustics are not what Gibson is known for.

Gibson hasn’t been a quality brand for a long time. Epiphone, makers of licensed Gibson clones, have been cranking out much higher quality instruments than Gibson for some time now, and at a much lower price. They still suffer from some of Gibson’s questionable/bad design choices, notably the 17 degree headstock, but they’re very good guitars. Gibson itself is only a shadow of its former self.

MDT (profile) says:

Gibson Quality

My uncle used to be a luthier for Gibson. He made hand-made guitars and mandolins for them. He wasn’t allowed to put his name on it, not even inside. It would take him months to make an instrument, and they were extremely high quality. Gibson would sell them for thousands each. And this was 20+ years ago.

He stopped making them because Gibson started cutting his pay per instrument to the bone (to the point he would be losing money to make the instrument). Quality went down drastically as other luthiers quit as well, and switched to other companies or just made instruments and sold them directly to musicians. His personal instruments still sell in the $2000 range just on his name alone. Unfortunately, he recently passed away.

bobob says:

Gibson is the epitome of what is wrong with intellectual property. If you want a Gibson guitar that doesn’t have something wrong with it, buy a knock off. I own 5 guitars, only one of which is a gibson (a 45 year old flying V with a headstock that split while sitting in its case). I’d toss it if it wasn’t collectable once repaired. (Search google for Gibson broken headstock.) So, they design guitars which sell for lots of money based on a reputation they acquired 50-60 years ago, but if you want a guitar you can play that won’t break (Gibson is infamous for split headstocks), you have to buy one that is a fraction of the cost from from someone they would sue? Perhaps they should instead take a few pointers from the companies that copy their designs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wood, its all about good wood. Its getting harder and much more expensive to find old growth timber and new restrictions on more exotic hardwoods is meaning some companies are making instruments out of less resonate and durable woods. Epiphone cuts a few corners but produces quality, but not the kind of quality Gibson is best known for. imho

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Epiphone cuts a few corners but produces quality, but not the kind of quality Gibson is best known for.

Maybe not the quality Gibson is known for but certainly better than the quality Gibson produces today. Gibson has been skating along on their reputation alone without a single concern fro what their current crappy quality will do to their reputation. Sounds a lot like Toyota.

TFG says:

Re: Re:

I recommend you employ your ability to think. While IP means Internet Protocol in most tech settings, it is very easy to infer from the context of the article that that that is not what it means in this context. You can likely get an idea of what the acronym is referring to just from reading the article, but you can also do a modicum of research by simply entering the term "IP Enforcement" into a search engine of your choice.

They all immediately tell you, within the first or second link, that it stands for "Intellectual Property."

As for SOPA – dude. Search the acronym (on an English search, natch). You will immediately find the Wikipedia article on it. You could also have clicked the link to the earlier article (the word "waffling") which has greater context on the instance it’s referring to, and has additional links to things that will help you understand the term.

Please think, and search. All the info is there and easy to find.

Anonymous Coward says:

They should have put their money into QA. As a result of letting lawyers run the show for promises of…something, they now have a reputation for producing junk guitars.

Congratulations, Gibson. You took a good name, good guitars, and turned them all into garbage. The only winners, per business-as-usual, are the lawyers.

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