Gibson Sues Dean, Luna Guitars for Trademark Infringement & Counterfeiting


Gibson, the popular guitar manufacturer, has filed a lawsuit against Armadillo Distribution Enterprises, the owner of Dean Guitars and Luna Guitars, for several alleged legal violations, including trademark infringement and trademark counterfeiting. The lawsuit claims that Armadillo has copied and profited from multiple Gibson designs and styles, and that it has deceived customers into purchasing what they believed were Gibson guitars.

Trademark infringement is a relatively common charge in the music industry, and it occurs when one company uses a trademarked name or symbol without permission. Trademark counterfeiting, on the other hand, implies that a company has intentionally copied a trademarked name or symbol in order to deceive customers into believing that they are purchasing a product that is affiliated with or endorsed by the trademark owner. If proven, trademark counterfeiting generally carries harsher fines and punishments than trademark infringement.

In the case of Gibson vs. Armadillo, the latter charge is particularly serious, as it implies that Dean and Luna meant to deceive customers into purchasing counterfeit Gibson guitars. This is a serious accusation, and if it is proven, it could have a significant impact on Armadillo’s reputation and financial stability.

Last week, Mark Agnesi, Gibson’s Director of Brand Experience, posted an unexpected video to YouTube. Though the clip was quickly taken down, it was viewed by a substantial number of music fans, and it has since been reuploaded. In the video, Agnesi issued a “warning” that Gibson would soon explore litigation against brands that have (allegedly) benefited from the use of Gibson’s assets.

While the video left many viewers scratching their heads, it seems that Gibson was not bluffing; one of the specified lawsuits was filed in a Texas court. Dean Guitars was founded in 1977, and most of the alleged trademark violations stem from guitars that have been on the market for well over a decade.

Gibson has a relatively extensive history of taking competitors to court. In 1977, the Nashville-based company sued Japan’s Hoshino Gakki, a musical instrument company, for copying the Les Paul. Gibson took another Japanese instrument company, Fernandes Guitar, to court in 2000; the court ruled in Fernandes’s favor. In 2010, Gibson sued a Canadian toymaker for their plastic guitar toys, which were alleged to look like Gibson guitars.

Armadillo’s CEO, Evan Rubinson, denied that any Armadillo brand has violated Gibson’s trademarks. He indicated in his statement that he believes Gibson’s current trademarks are too general, and that they do not provide adequate protection for the company’s intellectual property.

Since being founded in 1902, Gibson has registered a sizable number of trademarks. These trademarks are a critical part of the company’s brand identity and are essential for maintaining its reputation and financial stability. The current lawsuit against Armadillo is just one example of Gibson’s efforts to protect its trademarks and intellectual property from infringement and counterfeiting.

Gibson’s bankruptcy filing in mid-2018 was a significant setback for the company, but it has since rebounded and is continuing to pursue legal action against those who it believes have infringed upon its intellectual property. The outcome of the lawsuit against Armadillo remains to be seen, but it is clear that Gibson is committed to protecting its trademarks and will continue to pursue legal action against those who it believes have violated its intellectual property rights.

3 Responses

  1. Doofus

    Kinda dumb, Case law since both Fernades and the 2005 PRS suit established that body styles can’t be trademarked. Pretty confident Gibson is going to lose.

  2. GuitarBlues

    Kind of surprising that you would think body styles can’t be trademarked since the author provides a link to a list of the trademarks in body style that Gibson has already registered (indicating they can be trademarked). Dean owns the trademark for the ML body style. I’m sure Dean would have no problem if other luthiers started flooding the market with ML body styles.