Since the beginning I’ve been blogging about the attempts by Gibson and Fender, the makers of fine guitars, to avoid copycat competition via the trademark and litigation route. My most recent post on the progress of that campaign is here, where I wrote:
[T]he main reward for a great, original product is a successful business based on that product. Intellectual property notwithstanding, the best way to protect most great ideas is by consistently excellent execution, high quality, responsive customer service, continued innovation and overall staying ahead of the competition by delivering more value. . . . [I]f an enterprise can’t fathom protecting its value proposition without some kind of gaudy trademark protection, ultimately something has to give.
Fender, according to the record in this opinion, understood the truth well for decades. It warned consumers to stick with its quality “originals” and not to be fooled by “cheap imitations,” and it flourished. But for all these years, Fender never claimed to think the sincerest form of flattery was against the law. Only in the feverish IP-crazy atmosphere of our current century did the company deem it “necessary” to spend a fortune that could have been used on product development, marketing or any darned thing on a quixotic quest for a trademark it never believed in itself. That is more than an impossible dream — it’s a crying shame.
Fake rock star with fake Gibson
Gibson is beginning to make its arguments to consumers on the merits, now, instead. Via @megLG (Megan Langley Grainger), Gibson is now online with what looks like a blog post that shows you, with words and music — well, no, that would actually have been really compelling, but at least with words and pictures — how to tell the difference between a counterfeit Gibson and the real thing.
The piece is pretty interesting, especially for a former guitar player, although it is entirely about counterfeit Gibson guitars (bearing the GIBSON name and trademark), which are clearly a trademark infringement. That’s not the same as knockoffs — copies of unprotectible elements of the guitar style meant to evoke the Gibson (or Fender) “look” — which is what I’ve written about in the past.
Unfortunately for Gibson, they hired someone out of the RIAA copywriting program and gave this very cool, informative and interesting post the leaden title, “Gibson Leads Industry Fight Against Counterfeit Gibsons,” instead of “Is Your Gibson the Real Thing?” or “How to Spot a Fake Gibson.” Read More…