Gibson is back in the news, and not for a new guitar model. After the recent news of the company threatening to start legal proceedings against Satellite Amplification over the use of the Epiphone Coronet shape, it is now contesting Collings Guitars over the headstock shape.
Gibson vs Collings
Looks like Gibson’s legal team has been busy. Again. The US guitar giant is now going after Collings Guitars, citing that the boutique brands’ headstock shape is, essentially, too similar to the company’s own models.
Collings began the process of trademarking its own headstock design back in April 2019, with the window for any opposition opening on 18 February 2020. Gibson filed its complaint on 17 June 2020.
This latest legal move from the company is likely to win them no friends, as Collings has a reputation for building stellar high-end, quality boutique instruments, and has a large following of guitar players.
The Gibson headstock styles in question are the Dove Wing design, the 1939 Epiphone headstock, and the 1963 Epiphone headstock. The company claims they are part of its “family of distinctive headstock designs” in its statement.
To me, this just smacks of Gibson trying to own everything. I’m no legal expert, but I can’t see how the Collings headstock could be confused with any of the shapes mentioned. Surely, all these aggressive legal actions will only put players off from buying the US guitar giant’s instruments?
I realise that the current Gibson team inherited a hot mess from the old Henry Juszkiewicz regime. But going after a well respected brand like Collings is just scraping the bottom of the barrel now, and will simply serve to deter players from supporting Gibson.
Unfortunately, Gibson taking companies to court, or threatening to do so has become par for the course. We saw Gibson vs Heritage, then before that we saw Gibson vs Dean. Recently there was the Kiesel case, as well. And let’s not forget the debacle that was the Play Authentic video. In spite of all this aggressive behaviour, Gibson still lost its EU case for the Flying V body shape.
When accused of bullying other brands, especially smaller builders, Gibson responded by saying it was going from confrontation to collaboration and launched the Gibson Authorized Partnership Program last year. Since then, we heard more about court cases from the brand than about that initiative.
I think Gibson needs to focus more on getting its own house in order by starting to consistently build quality guitars again, and not fire legal claims every few months at the competition. All these tactics employed to defend the Gibson brand and heritage are doing it more harm than good. Maybe it’s time the company concentrated on building quality guitars at all price points instead?
Let us know what you think in the comments section below.