Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by BeeTL, May 13, 2009.
Just read the entire post. Kudos to you BeeTL. Nice Work!
Thanks again guys!
If you want to see vitriol, check my similar thread over at the TDPRI Tele Home Depot.
The audience there is mostly builders, but you'd think it was full of patent attorneys and art critics!
I've gone back and re-read some of the links I posted early on, including the Fender Trademark Proscution History, and I'm really pleased with everything I've learned, both history and process.
For someone who really wants to understand and not just speculate on how trademarks work in the guitar business, this thread is really a "one stop shop", at least as a primer.
I'll probably copy a good portion of the text I've posted here and elsewhere and post it on my website.
Maybe it will encourage other folks to learn a little more about how these things work.
Congrats for this effort and tenacity but damn if that body style doesn't have Albert Lee all over it.
The real question, to me, is this: would you consider adding a little metal to the headstock so it could actually be used as a bottle opener? I am not joking, btw.
Yes, I would/will.
Metal fabrication isn't cheap in small batches, but if things really get going, it WILL be an option.
I have to say, I really like your guitars. They're absolutely fantastic. Do you do all the art work yourself?
I've been doing patent drawings for a living for 20 years (my own business). Most of my clients are law firms and big corporations, but we also deal with some little inventors because of our Google presence. Inventors are often a little crazy, and they're mostly all convinced their inventions are going to change the world. That's the beauty of it all of course, as the famous Apple TV spot so rightly observes: 'the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do'. No truer words were ever spoken.
But from a business standpoint, this can make these people dicey to deal with, I will only do business with the ones who have their ducks in a row, present what they need very clearly and concisely, seem reasonable, and then don't get an aneurism when they learn what a set of professionally prepared drawings will cost. That means that I wind up working for 1 out of every 10 inventors I talk to, but many of those calls are from people who really don't understand the process at all, so often I'm educating raw newbies who just Googled us out of the ether, half of them aren't really ready for drawings yet for a number of reasons.
Bear in mind that patent protection has significant potential value as a deterrent to somebody poaching your concept. At the end of the day it can be largely meaningless if you don't have the dough to litigate if some unscrupulous individual or firm rips you off. But it usually doesn't come to that, and for the most part I think people that acquire patent or TM protection wind up getting what they're after in the first place.
The system mostly works, but sometimes it doesn't. Our patent office is badly under funded, it's rather scandalous, considering how important it is to the U.S. (and the world) economy. Oh well. I can 't fix that. We just do the drawings. We've even done a couple of guitar related inventions over the years.
Yes, the art is mine.
That's what got me started, I wanted to be able to "sign" the guitars.
What a long, strange trip it's been!
Have you ever worked with Patrick Richards out of Chicago?
He's my attorney.
We have 4-5 patent law firm clients in downtown Chicago, but I don't know Pat Richards. We're NY based (50 miles from Manhattan) and our clients have always been in NYC and the NY area, but recently we've had to expand our marketing efforts nationwide (mainly through Google and other search engine placement and advertising) as more patent prosecution has moved away from pricey NY law firms to the Midwest and South. So we now have clients in places like Texas, Chicago, Atlanta, etc. that we never would have had even 5 years ago.
We're in a pretty specialized niche, but the business has gotten much tougher in the last decade, a bunch of my competitors have folded up as the work got scarce in the recession. It's coming around again, there's more demand now. I have found that when I put our name out there, we get pretty good response, so we're pretty busy.
I've been doing this since 1991, I was one of the first guys to do drawings on the computer, when I started everybody was using pen and ink. I've never done a drawing on anything besides a Mac.
Just curious why you'd want to use Fender's Telecaster body shape for some of your home brewed originals.
It seems that you've gone to great lengths in the name of originality, ownership and pride...but you don't mind using some guy's 60 year old design?
As for the original shapes:
If I'm a customer and I ask you what's different and special about your line of guitars, what would you say? That they work like exactly like every other electric guitar build, just shaped a bit different?
Just wondering what the appeal is supposed to be.
Even "that guy" was forced by market pressure to make copies of his old designs. Leo didn't want to produce the ASAT, and the Legacy had to wait until he was gone. Guess what G&L's most popular model is?
On guitar #s 1-12 or so, it was the artwork:
The next four will have the new body style.
After that, the appeal will be my capacity to mix and match design elements from a variety of different styles and sources and deliver an instrument that exactly meets my customers' needs/wants.
My niche will delivering a uniquely personal instrument to each of my customers.
Exactly. I'm now in a position to go wherever the market takes me.
Funny - I remember doing technical (not patent) drawings on my Atari 800 and on my early IBM - before the Mac. Of course, I've been a Mac guy ever since they came along...
I would think that one would have more pride in their work rather than to copy someone elses work, even if doing so is legal on a technicality. I dont build guitars, but I certainly wouldnt feel good about writing a song and just changing the melody or the words the absolute legal minimum to be able to call it original.
Have you ever walked through a Guitar Center, or for that matter, any other retailer of any kind?
Guitar manufacturers build what sells, as does Detroit, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, etc.
One ignores the market, any market, at his own peril.
As for songwriting, have fun analyzing the chord progressions of the hits of the last 50 years or so.
I'm not sure that "chord progressions" can be copyrighted, just lyrics and melody.
Cool, then be a copy builder, but OWN it! Be proud of it! Just don't try to fool yourself or anyone else into thinking you're doing something original.
Precisely who am I attempting to "fool" by disclosing my entire process on a public forum?
As far as being a "copy" builder, I guess that all depends on how narrow your definition is.
I can say with confidence that to this point I have not completed a single instrument that most (including the USPTO) would confuse as a "copy" of anything.
This entire thread has been about educating people on how TRADEMARKS work in the USA with respect to guitar building.
You seem to have your own ideas about what is or isn't a "copy", and that's your prerogative.
However, let's not confuse personal OPINION with Trademark LAW.
I never really addressed this, but it's simple, really.
When I started out, my original plan was to be a painter, not a guitar designer/builder.
I lived in a two bedroom condo with a garage, so space was limited, so my plan was to buy "off the shelf" unfinished parts from the usual places, finish them myself, and put my name on the headstock.
I quickly realized that putting my name on a trademarked headstock was a no-no, so guitar #1 (post #93) has a headstock of my own design, carved by hand with a coping saw and Dremel.
The shape was modified slightly to accommodate using a table router and bits, so the final shape you see in the Trademark is "production ready".
Two years ago I moved into a place with an 1800 square foot garage/shop space, and I've expanded my goals based on that.
If you search for threads started by me here, the whole history is documented.
That's true, and there are several posts in this thread in which other posters have pointed out similiarities between your designs and previously established guitars.
So, excuse me if I misunderstand, the only reason you didn't start making copy guitars immediately was lack of space?
Yeah, the Mac kind of made the patent drawings possible because the drawings we do are more illustration than pure drafting, and Adobe Illustrator on the Mac kind of allowed you to do that type of work on a PC. I'm not sure when the first Windows version became available, but 20 years ago it was primarily Macs.
From some pretty reliable early beta version reports, Windows 8 will be a total clusterfark by the way, so Microsoft is about to start another episode in self-destruction of its last business model bastion. Oh well.