by Jef | Approximate reading time: 2 Minutes

Collings Guitars headstock shape  ·  Source: Collings Guitar

Collings Guitars headstock shape  ·  Source: Collings Guitars


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.

Epiphone to get Gibson headstock shape?

Headstock Shapes

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.

Gibson Play Authentic video featuring Mark Agnesi

Gibson Play Authentic video featuring Mark Agnesi

Gibson Bullying

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.

More Information

Image Sources:
  • Epiphone to get Gibson headstock shape?: Gibson/Epiphone
  • Gibson Play Authentic video featuring Mark Agnesi: Gibson

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14 responses to “Gibson contests Collings headstock trademark registration”

    William Paxson says:

    Go home Gibson, you’re drunk. And close the door on the way out.

    ted keane says:

    Lawyers are making money

    MDR says:

    If you owned a design that was distinctive and trade marked and was worth millions as goodwill on your balance sheet you would do everything possible to defend your brand also. You would be a fool and suffer dereliction of duty if you didn’t.

    John W Humphrey says:

    Makes me want to buy a CL Deluxe over any of the Historics

    Jeroen_A says:

    Gibson would have guitars that stay in tune if they had headstocks like those on Collings guitars.

      William Paxson says:

      Gibson’s headstocks are not the problem (haven’t been for me for the last 50+ years) but it’s Gibson’s management that is “out of tune”.

    Al Adams says:

    I love how Agnesi tries to “hip himself up” in the play authentic video with his leather jacket that has no wear, creases, etc., his tee shirt and trying to “talk tough”. What a joke. Looks like he’s auditioning for Fonzie in an off Broadway version of Happy Days.

    I will quote jay Leno when the automobile industry was crying for financial help back in ’09.”If you had a product that looked good, had quality, and that people will actually wanted, at a competitive price, then people would have bought it, and you wouldn’t be in this situation.”

    Before Slash came along in the 80s with his “fake” Les Paul copy, you couldn’t give away a Gibson. I find it interesting that his plagiarized copies that he used for Appetite are copied by Gibson as his signature models. I wonder if they threatened to sue HIM before they offered him an endorsement.

    Joe Vannucci says:

    No way I’d ever confuse my Collings with my Gibsons. And not just because of the completely different headstock design.

    Uncle kester says:

    The reality is Collings makes far far superior electric, acoustic guitars and mandolins! If Gibson spent resources to build better instruments, Collings peg head wouldn’t matter. I was in the office of Richard Hoover 20 years and he was ending a conversation from one of Gibson‘s lawyers doing the same thing, threatening him about their peg head shape,, and they were much smaller at the time so WTF!

    Charlie Reitzel says:

    I’ll play the Devil’s Advocate: As a company, Collings has specialized in making improved Gibsons at a premium price. So many of their guitars, both acoustic and electric, are modeled direclty on a specific Gibson model. A couple models are less derivative. But they’re headstock is intentionally reminiscient of Gibson’s. It’s all but identical, except for the “side part”, so to speak. A tiny bit more concave curve on the sides. I’m surprise only that Gibson waited so long to start protecting their copyrights.

    The average guitar buyer will be entirely unaware of the question. So no worries there. I expect Gibson may follow Fender’s example and settle for some licensing payments. That may be a reasonable thing – or not – depending on the rates.

    Gary Johnson says:

    This is a frivolous legal case. I would never confuse these two brands, both in headstock design or product quality. Collings have consistently been making extremely high end instruments. Gibson have during this time lived off historical glories. For me, Tokai will always be my choice of Les paul. Gibson can’t even come close to the same quality control levels.

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