Gibson Loses Legal Battle Over Flying V
Todd Simpson
Dec 29 2021, 04:23 AM
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Warwick, which is the parent company of Framus has claimed a win in it’s lawsuit with Gibson guitars. All of this started over the Framus “Wolf Hoffman” signature guitar. That guitar is a flying V. It looks a LOT like a Gibson flying and so Gibson brought suit against Framus. The supreme court of Germany has dismissed Gibson’s appeal against the ruling made last year that favored Framus over Gibson.

This started way back in 2014. Gibson sued Framus over the Hoffman guitar as they felt it was just ripping off their Gibons Flying V design. At first, things were going Gibson’s way and they got an injunction against Framus. This prevented Framus from selling the guitar and even held the possibility of framus having to pay significant damages to Gibson. On appeal the decision again went to Gibson and the injunction was upheld.

The case went to a higher regional court who ruled that folks buying this guitar could not considered “laymen”. In other words, the thought the customers knew enough about guitars to realize that they were not buying a Gibson. As such, the court said that Framus was not infringing on Gibson’s trademark.

The higher court did concede that there were significant similarities between the two guitars, but also held that there were enough significant differences that the Framus design was not going to confuse buyers into thinking they were buying a Gibson Flying V. The court conceded that Framus had in fact copied the design from Gibson. But despite that fact, they held that consumers were smart enough to know the difference and therefore were not being misled and therefore Gibson didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Gibson appealed this decision and it went to the German Supreme Court. Being the highest court in the land, it really came down to this. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court and said that Gibson’s claim was not valid. They did concede the designs were similar but held that the logos on each head stock were so different that no consumer would think they were buying the wrong guitar.

Needless to say Gibson was not happy about this. It basically meant that Framus could make as many of these as they wanted, and sell them and keep the money. They didn’t owe Gibson a thing. This was a controversial decision of course. After all, the two designs are very similar and the signature guitar was in fact based on the original Gibson Flying V design which was then modified per mr Hoffman to suit his needs.

The question now of course, is how much “copying” can be done under the law? If Framus can just borrow one of Gibson’s most iconic designs and get away with it, what else can “borrowed”? Is it going to be possible to enforce trademarks when companies are allowed to make things that are so similar to the original item? This is a serious concern for guitar builders who rely on such protections. Certainly, smaller builders have been borrowing guitar shapes since the dawn of time, but now it’s been allowed for a much larger builder. What’s next? Is Framus or another builder going to start borrowing all of Gibsons shapes?

In truth, it’s very hard to stop this type of thing. You may have noticed have many single cutaway shapes are available from a variety of guitar builders. Also, you may have noticed how many strat looking guitars are available. Indeed, enforcing this type of thing is not easy. The plaintiff has to show that consumers would be so confused by a “borrowed” product shape that they might think they were buying the real thing. That’s a high bar in terms of the law.

What do you guys think?


Attached Image


These articles were very helpful in writing this.

https://guitar.com/news/gear-news/warwick-c...-legal-dispute/
https://guitar.com/news/gibson-warwick-trad...k-legal-battle/

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This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Dec 29 2021, 04:25 AM
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klasaine
Dec 29 2021, 05:59 AM
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Fender never really pursued and still doesn't pursue much copyright infringement when it comes to their body shapes and even their headstock design (it's a Bigsby design anyway which was copied from a violin scroll). Hell, they even license their designs.

Gibson should have learned their lesson when they tried to sue PRS over it's 'single cut' models.
Contrary to popular mythology Gibson never sued Ibanez, Greco, Burny or the myriad other Japanese builders that not only copied LPs, SGs and 335s but tried to make the headstock logo and inlays really resemble the "Gibson" logo. Hence the moniker 'lawsuit model' really isn't. Why they decided to go after Framus (in a EU court) is beyond me.

The 'business man' logic in pursuing a copyright infringement is that if you don't show that you're willing to fight for it you will lose your ability to protect it. Though in the case of guitars, it hasn't seemed to hurt Fender in the slightest.

Gibson displays yet again their uncanny ability to choose the path of most resistance.

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This post has been edited by klasaine: Dec 29 2021, 06:14 AM
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AK Rich
Dec 29 2021, 08:27 AM
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That's a shame. The bar is set too high against original designers trying to protect their work in my view and Framus is obviously making money off of a design they had nothing to do with. It's one thing to take someone else's design and tweak it to make it your own. But when it's an obvious copy like that, it's just a total rip-off. Looking at that picture, that's a Gibson Flying V. Just because you have a different logo and maybe different tuning keys and knobs or paint scheme makes no difference in my eyes. That shape is a Gibson Flying V, period.
Can you tell one from the other from 100ft away or so? I don't think so.

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This post has been edited by AK Rich: Dec 29 2021, 09:34 PM
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jstcrsn
Dec 30 2021, 07:26 PM
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Gibson did not care and let them do it for too long . If Gibson put the same kind of effort into making a quality guitar it would not matter.

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klasaine
Dec 30 2021, 08:38 PM
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QUOTE (jstcrsn @ Dec 30 2021, 11:26 AM) *
Gibson did not care and let them do it for too long . If Gibson put the same kind of effort into making a quality guitar it would not matter.

Very true.
How long have Framus been making that model?
Also, to claim that someone would 'mistake' the Framus Wolf Hoffman model for a Gibson Flying V ... please. That Framus model retails for between $5000 US for a plain one and $18,000 US for the top of the line 'Bionic Snake' (great name!) model. If it was a cheap knock off masquerading as a real Flying V (like the Japanese models that Gibson didn't sue over in the 70s), then OK. What Gibson is pissed about is that the Framus is a better guitar. No one is 'confused'. If they pick the $5,000.00 Framus, they want the Framus.

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Todd Simpson
Dec 31 2021, 01:06 AM
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That seems to be along the lines of Supreme Court ruling as well smile.gif They said folks are not going to be confused between these two in that anyone who wants the Framus, knows what it is. if the price point would have been similar, the case might have gone the other way as the standard of evidence is based on not confusing the "common man".

I had no idea the top end of that framus was almost 20k. Wow!!

QUOTE (klasaine @ Dec 30 2021, 03:38 PM) *
Very true.
How long have Framus been making that model?
Also, to claim that someone would 'mistake' the Framus Wolf Hoffman model for a Gibson Flying V ... please. That Framus model retails for between $5000 US for a plain one and $18,000 US for the top of the line 'Bionic Snake' (great name!) model. If it was a cheap knock off masquerading as a real Flying V (like the Japanese models that Gibson didn't sue over in the 70s), then OK. What Gibson is pissed about is that the Framus is a better guitar. No one is 'confused'. If they pick the $5,000.00 Framus, they want the Framus.

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