In the wake of a successful trademark-infringement lawsuit against guitar manufacturer Paul Reed Smith, Gibson Guitar Corp. is intensifying global action to defend the trademark registration of its mu

NEW YORK -- In the wake of a successful trademark-infringement lawsuit against guitar manufacturer Paul Reed Smith, Gibson Guitar Corp. is intensifying global action to defend the trademark registration of its musical instruments.

The March 2004 ruling against Paul Reed Smith regarding its "Singlecut" model was the first development in a recent flurry of legal activity by Nashville-based Gibson. It was followed in May by a lawsuit Gibson filed in the Middle District of Tennessee against Japanese manufacturer Tokai over its "Love Rock" and other models.

In each case, Gibson claimed that the manufacturer infringed upon its Les Paul design, for which it applied for trademark registration in 1987.

"We were delighted with the Paul Reed Smith case," says Gibson Guitar Corp. general counsel Joel Cherry. "We were happy not just because of the win but because of the judge's ruling. His view of the fact and his application of the law were so clearly in our favor, and in favor of our registration and the protection of our rights. It's the kind of ruling that we hope sends a message.

"One is required to police one's rights," Cherry adds. "We feel we have an obligation, and certain of our designs are at the foundation of Gibson -- the Les Paul, of course, is the king. Clearly, we'd go to any length to protect those rights."

Cherry says that damages in the Paul Reed Smith case are to be determined in proceedings scheduled for July 6-9 at U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Cherry confirmed to ELW that Gibson's iconic SG and ES series models are the subjects of additional legal action.

"There is an action that we are close to resolving with a Korean manufacturer which involves certain important designs of ours, which we are confident is about to be resolved in our favor," says Cherry. "There is (action involving Tokai), which has just gotten under way here in the U.S., because they've just encroached upon our soil. It's premature to talk about any result, but it is consistent with our efforts to police our rights."

Tokai could not be reached for comment by deadline.

Gibson's efforts to protect trademarks, Cherry notes, mirror the music industry's struggle to enforce intellectual property rights.

"Certain of these territories have, shall we say, far less-developed intellectual property protective laws," he says. "We are obviously zealous within the United States, but we also police them worldwide. Where we see the opportunity to send a signal and to stop that kind of activity, we will. We've won in Germany, we've won in France, we've had successes globally. In certain other territories, it's hard. The judicial system there isn't as protective of one's rights as we think it ought to be."

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