A top executive at Japanese guitar/bass manufacturer Tokai says the company is no longer interested in selling its "Love Rock" guitars in the United States. The remark comes after Gibson Guitar Corp.

NEW YORK -- A top executive at Japanese guitar/bass manufacturer Tokai says the company is no longer interested in selling its "Love Rock" guitars in the United States. The remark comes after Gibson Guitar Corp. in May filed a trademark-infringement suit over the model in the Middle District of Tennessee (ELW, June 21).

"We have no intention to break U.S.A. law or rules," insists Shohei Adachi, president of Tokai.

Gibson claimed that the Love Rock models infringe on the design of its Les Paul electric guitar.

Tokai's Love Rock guitars were first sold in the U.S. in 1983, says Adachi. In 1987, the year Gibson applied for trademark registration for the Les Paul, "we stopped selling our guitars in the U.S. because of the exchange rate," Adachi says. "The value of Japanese yen became about double to U.S. dollar. So we (gave) up selling our guitars to the U.S. market.

"In 2001," he continues, "our Canadian distributor asked us to sell our guitars in the U.S., and they advised us to change the body figure and the headstock figure of Love Rock because of Gibson's registered trademarks. Our Canadian distributor talked to Gibson's attorney and designed our new Love Rock models."

Tokai exhibited the new Love Rock and other guitars at the biannual NAMM trade shows in 2002, 2003 and January 2004. The NAMM show is produced by, the International Music Products Assn.

"We thought we did not have any problem with our new Love Rock models with Gibson," says Adachi. "We talked to our Canadian distributor and at NAMM 2004 (in Anaheim, Calif.), we exhibited our new Love Rock models and our original guitars through our new U.S.A. distributor, Godlyke Inc.

"Godlyke checked our new Love Rock models with their attorney carefully before exhibiting. So we did not worry with Gibson. So now we are surprised at Gibson's act, and we leave this matter to Godlyke."

Clifton, N.J.-based Godlyke Distributing Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We look at everyone's designs," responds Gibson general counsel Joel Cherry, "and there are many we conclude that legally we have no right (to oppose). That's fine; there is a basic design or look to a guitar. But to the extent that elements are protectable, we go after the infringers."