March 16, 2021
A trademark dispute between guitar makers, Gibson Brands (“Gibson”) and Dean Guitars (“Dean”), will be heard in a Federal Court after motions for summary judgment from both sides were denied by a Texas judge.
The initial lawsuit was launched by Gibson in June 2019 against Armadillo Enterprises, Dean’s parent company, for alleged infringement of seven of its copyrighted guitar shape designs including the Flying V, Explorer, SG and ES. In response, Dean described the designs as “commonplace” and filed a countersuit to have the registrations cancelled.
The Court held that summary judgment can only be granted when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the parties did not meet this burden.
In 2019, Gibson lost its exclusive right to the shape of its Flying V guitar in the European Union. A Court there found that “[t]he presence on the market of a significant number of shapes encountered by consumers makes it unlikely that they will regard a particular shape as belonging to a specific manufacturer rather than being just one of the variety of shapes characterising the market”.
Authors: Aaron Barrett and Scott Kerr