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Gibson Play Authentic video featuring Mark Agnesi

Gibson Play Authentic video featuring Mark Agnesi  ·  Source: Gibson

Gibson sues Dean Guitars & Luna Guitars

Gibson sues Dean Guitars & Luna Guitars  ·  Source: Dean/Gibson

That was quick! Hot on the heels of the Play Authentic video hosted by Mark Agnesi comes news that Gibson is following up on its threat – and taking a guitar maker to court for infringing on its copyrights! We understand that Gibson is suing Dean Guitars and its parent company, Armadillo Distribution Enterprises Inc.

Trademark Infringements!

According to, Gibson is accusing Armadillo of infringements on seven of its trademarks. These include the body shape design of the Flying V, Explorer, ES and SG, as well as the Dove Wing headstock design, the Hummingbird name and also the Moderne trademark.

The suit was filed in the United States District Court For The Eastern District Of Texas in May, but amended on 6 June 2019, a week before that Play Authentic video was uploaded onto YouTube.

Dean has been making the guitars since 1977, when Dean Zelinsky founded the company. The V and Z models have become staples of the Dean brand. The V celebrated its 30th birthday with a special anniversary model back in 2007.

Gibson is trying to say that people could be fooled into thinking a Dean guitar is in fact a Gibson, as they are filing Trademark Counterfeiting. That means they could ask for much higher damages from Dean. Gibson has allegedly requested a jury trial to resolve the case. I have also heard that Gibson is seeking Armadillo’s profits, damages sustained by Gibson, the costs of the action, and the profits and damages “to be trebled or otherwise multiplied to the extent permitted by statute”.

Gibson would potentially have the option of pursuing statutory damages of around $14 million – $2 million for each of the seven trademarks that it is claiming for.

Gibson V versus Dean V

Gibson V and Dean V

First Reaction

Armadillo CEO Evan Rubinson describes the lawsuit as “completely unfounded”:

“We respect and value the intellectual property rights of others. But … some things are just too common and basic for one company to claim as their own property … We want to vigorously defend ourselves and seek to cancel Gibson’s alleged trademark registrations.”

Play Authentic Backlash

The backlash from the (pulled) Play Authentic Mark Agnesi video has already hit the internet hard this week. Images and video responses are all over guitar forums while social media is full of responses to Mark’s message.

Below is a typical response from one such site.

Gibson Play Authentic Backlash

Gibson Play Authentic Backlash

I am no lawyer, but I do remember the failed Gibson lawsuit against PRS over their Singlecut design, the one that Gibson said looked like a Les Paul. That law suit was thrown out and Paul Reed Smith happily makes and sells his Singlecut design to this day.

Does chasing Trademarks help the brand?

I’m inclined to say that I think Gibson is rapidly destroying its own reputation with this latest legal claim. We all know they had to pull the Play Authentic video days after it was posted on YouTube because of the huge the backlash from players and guitar makers.

By going after other brands the company is slowly damaging any credibility they have left. If they had protected themselves from day one, I could understand it. But by acting out now in 2019, which is 60 plus years since these designs came into being, they’ve kind of missed the boat on protecting these trademarks.

I cannot see how focusing money and energy on legal battles will help their cause. If anything it will just put customers off the brand. You can own the trademarks Gibson, but if you cannot be bothered to protect your brand for 60 odd years and then go on to sell poorly made, high-priced versions of the guitar designs, don’t expect the guitar community to be behind you.

Another question: Is Dean a threat to Gibson? I don’t know anyone that has ever gone out and seen a Dean guitar and believed it to be a Gibson. Can Dean build better guitars then Gibson? Who knows, but I honestly do not see Dean as a threat.

Appetite For Destruction

I do however see Gibson as a threat to themselves. My advice is: Make great guitars, sort out your quality control and get realistic about the pricing. If it wasn’t for luthiers like Kris Derrig, you’d have gone under 30 years ago.

Derrig built the amazing copy of a  ’59 Les Paul that Slash played on the first Guns’n’Roses album Appetite For Destruction. If it wasn’t for that one guitar, I personally think that Gibson might have folded years ago. The ’80s were full of Kramer guitars and Super Strats, nobody wanted a Gibson Les Paul any more. They were seen as poorly made and heavy “dad guitars”. And other companies could make a better Les Paul than Gibson could. You couldn’t give them away.

The company in my opinion needs to hire great guitar builders and luthiers as well as quality control managers that can actually play the guitar. Then possibly lay off some legal advisors and middle management. Just build great guitars. PRS can and do it all day long, so why can’t you?



by Jef

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I’m not trying to be antagonistic here, but Gibson have a point. Most discussions online seem to center around the notion that it’s professional/gigging guitar players who’d buy a guitar, and that there’s no way someone would confuse a Gibson with a Dean. In my own experience, more often than not guitars are bought as gifts by people who don’t play themselves and who could not tell a Gibson from a Dean. Yeah, I know, it says right on the headstock that it’s a Dean. But still, many buyers who are not familiar with guitars wouldn’t immediately realize that it’s… Read more »

William Paxson

So Gibson’s position is if an idiot can confuse the two guitars they should have redress. Good luck with that. BTW, Gibson has never actually tested their most valuable trademark-the “mustache headstock” design actually in court so they might want to tread carefully before they bet the farm on stuff like this.


Not “an idiot” but Joe Sixpack. Yes, indeed, that’s why trademarks exist.

William Paxson

“Joe Sixpack” isn’t that stupid.


my girlfriend didn’t know the difference between a Fender Strat and a Gibson SG. Since Fender came with the Strat 1st, should Fender sue Gibson?


This is the worst possible thing Gibson could do to their reputation.

I guess that the new corporate buyout owners at Gibson don’t really care about actually making well built guitars at reasonable prices, but instead will try to make some money from legal settlements before they abandon this brand, whose already damaged reputation they have now cpmpletely shat upon.

No way will I buy even an Epiphone from this company anymore!!!!


By the way, if Gibson’s designs are so “generic”, as Dean claims, it should be a walk in the park to invalidate them with the Trademark Office, right? And yet, Dean have never done that. Why? Because they know they’d not succeed.

Saying, as Dean does, that the designs are so generic but they’re just going to go ahead and infringe on them instead of attacking the trademark registrations first is really no better than Chinese companies infringing on US products. In fact, most of them are making the exact same argument.


By the way: In the first reaction to the infamous YouTube video people were saying that, apparently, Gibson wants to go after “Chinese counterfeiters”. Now they are saying, “Oh, wait, why is Gibson attacking an American company?” As a matter of fact, the vast majority of infringing Dean guitars are manufactured in China, Korea and Indonesia. So if anything, Dean’s market behavior is proving Gibson’s point: the designs are stolen, and the knockoffs come from cheap labor countries. That a few infringing Dean guitars are produced in the US doesn’t help the case, but make it worse. Look at this:… Read more »


dude stfu. gibson has stolen guitar designs in the past and SOLD them. they did last year with that new flying v they showed at CES and later SOLD. jackson made that guitar FIRST. it was the roswell rhoads. gibson STOLE the open book headstock design. gibson STOLE their acoustic design from martin. and this is just a short list of the stuff they have stolen. this is all about getting their asses out of their jacked up financial situation because they are SCARED to compete in a free market and nothing more. keep gargling on gibsons dangly bits.


This will end up being no different than the Lotus “look and feel” suit for drop-down menus that happened years ago. They may have designed it, but the “use” had made it so prevalent and generic that there was no enforcible copyright violation. PS: I own Gibson gtrs and have for 30+ yrs.. This will end up hurting them, just like SCO sueing Sun for using copyrighted code in Java releases.


I feel like this is just kind of a d***head move that totally flies in the face of any sense of musical community and artistic expression. Not for nothing, but I feel like I’ve seen Gibson put out their own versions of guitars that have been built and developed by smaller companies and luthiers that are initially inspired by their original designs. So are they going to retroactively sue anyone who’s built a double-cut bass with TB style pickups? Or anyone who’s built a guitar with a trapeze tailpiece and p-90’s?… I imagine this will do more to hurt the… Read more »


You can bet this whole boneheaded affair will be driven by the corporate suits who only understand litigation & maximising shareholder returns – they bought a famous brand & are now intent on milking the legend rather than revitalising & refocussing the business itself.


FUCK GIBSON! Oh wait, fuck all effects pedal builders aswell. haha You have to realize, that most pedals are also a copy of everything else. I mean. I build individual pedals, (best on the market for what they are) hahaha, and they are absolutely 100% a big rip off, of designs of pedals that came before them. Example: Catalinbread, wampler, this and that, are ALL rip off designs of pedals that came before them. The people building those pedals are NOT experts with design and science majors. They are home bodies with a hobby that decided to clone and change… Read more »

Dylan Lemonds

Epiphone t310…..


As a musician, I would be pissed if someone stole my music to use in say…a background to Trump’s victory speech. This seems like the same thing, Gibson should be able to control who uses their trademarks. Its not like Dean is angelic. If Dean makes better guitars than they should have no problem selling original designs. Maybe Gibson saw the opportunity when the trust fund kid was put in charge: