A federal jury mostly sided with Gibson Brands on Friday (May 27) in a lawsuit that accused rival Dean Guitars of copying the shape of the company’s guitars like the Flying V, though the jurors awarded Gibson just $4,000 in damages.
The verdict came after more than three years of litigation and two weeks of trial over whether Dean parent company Armadillo Enterprises infringed trademark-protected design elements of several Gibson guitars, including the Flying V, Explorer, ES, SG and the Dove Wing.
In a key win for Gibson, the jurors rejected arguments by Dean that those designs had become so commonplace that they’re now “generic” and free for all to use. And with that finding, the jurors also said Dean had infringed those designs by selling look-alike guitars.
But the jury also found that Gibson had legally waited too long to sue Dean over several of the designs, including the Flying V and the Explorer. And the jury said Gibson had suffered no actual harm as a result of any of Dean’s infringement, resulting in an award of just $4,000 in so-called statutory damages.
Big damages or not, the ruling still means that Gibson could potentially win an injunction barring Dean from selling the designs that jurors said were infringed and hadn’t been delayed. The ruling will likely be appealed, first to the judge the oversaw the trial and then to a federal appeals court.
In a statement following the verdict, Gibson said it was “very pleased with the outcome after years of simply trying to protect their brand.” The company said its guitar shapes are “iconic, and now are firmly protected for the past, present, and future.”
Armadillo did not immediately return a request for comment on the outcome.
Read the full verdict below: