Guitar maker Gibson appears to be gearing up to get in on the NFT craze, disclosing to the federal trademark office that it intends to sell NFTs that involve images of its Les Paul, Flying V, Thunderbird and other guitars.
In documents filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office obtained by Billboard, Gibson Brands Inc. applied for trademark registrations covering the “uniquely shaped body” of six of its famous guitars. The company told the agency that it plans to use them to sell “multimedia files” that are authenticated by NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.
The filings, made on Jan. 14, contain little additional detail on Gibson’s plans. They were filed as so-called intent-to-use applications, meaning Gibson has not yet launched any products but has a serious intention to do so. A spokeswoman for Gibson declined to comment on the applications or offer more info on company’s plans. The filings were first noticed by Josh Gerben, an attorney at the trademark-focused law firm Gerben Perrott PLLC.
Art and collectibles tied to NFTs – essentially digital versions of the certificates of authenticity you’d get when you buy paintings or rare memorabilia – have exploded in popularity over the past two years, including in the music industry. The Weeknd, Eminem, Kings of Leon, Grimes, Shawn Mendes and many other artists have debuted their own NFTs over the past year.
Now, guitar brands like Gibson appear to be getting into the mix. In November, ESP Guitars launched a series of NFTs consisting of digital versions of some of its guitars. Priced at $100 a pop, ESP sold 30 NFTs each for three of its guitars, like the ESP USA M-I FR-DLX Skulls & Crows Limited Edition.
Iconic rockers have also sold NFTs of their historic guitars, including Gibsons. Earlier this month, Keith Richards said he would auction off an NFT of a hand-signed, Gibson ES-335 electric-acoustic guitar. And on Monday, John Lennon’s son Julian Lennon said he would sell an NFT of several of his father’s guitars, including a Gibson Les Paul 25/50.
Gibson’s trademark applications cover the body shapes of six different guitars: the Les Paul, Flying V, Thunderbird, SG, Explorer, and either the ES-330 or ES-335. A seventh application covers the shape of a guitar’s headstock, and an eighth covers a truss rod cover.
NFTs might be a new venture for Gibson, but the company is no stranger to trademark law. Beyond typical trademarks on its name and logo, Gibson claims the actual shapes of its guitars themselves as proprietary branding – and it hasn’t hesitated to go to court to stop others that it claims are infringing those rights.
In 2010, Gibson filed suit against Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon and others for selling look-alike guitars under different brand names. In 2014, it filed a similar case against British rival JHS, and the company is currently litigating two separate lawsuits against Heritage Guitar Inc. and a smaller guitar maker called Armadillo over similar accusations.
Notably, Gibson even sued Nickelodeon owner Viacom for selling a “SpongeBob SquarePants”-branded ukulele that looked like a Flying V. It also took toymaker Funko to court, over plush dolls of Metallica and Kiss that came with tiny guitars that looked like Les Pauls.
Gibson already owns a slew of federal trademark registrations, including for the shapes of the guitars in the new applications. But trademarks don’t automatically cover all products and, if approved by the trademark office, the new registrations sought by Gibson would make it easier for the company to sue anyone that sold NFTs featuring those guitars.
Such applications can take months or years to be processed, and rival companies can challenge the application if they choose.