When a guitar company produces a copy can they use the exact dimensions?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Lawliet, Apr 6, 2015.

  1. Lawliet

    Lawliet Member

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    I'm just wondering this and couldn't find the answer online. When a company makes a telecaster or les paul copy can they use the exact same dimensions or would they have to make their model just a little bit off so Fender and Gibson are still making the 'real thing'. Or can they just purchase a license and then they can do whatever they want?

    thanks
     
  2. archey

    archey Member

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    Companies are licensed by Fender to make bodies and necks. I think they are the only company to do that. As far as a company doing a copy of something, say a Les Paul for example, they are entering into dangerous waters.
     
  3. Lawliet

    Lawliet Member

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    Ok, but a guitar like the Electra Omega for example. Wouldn't that be a Les Paul copy? Is it only a copy if they are using the epiphone and gibson name and logo?
     
  4. archey

    archey Member

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    The headstock shape is the main thing that other companies can't copy. Having said that gibson tried to go after prs for their singlecut shape. Of course we all know that gibson lost, but most companies don't have the deep pockets that prs does. As far as the omega goes, I have no idea how they have that body shape without getting into to legal trouble with gibson.
     
  5. stevieboy

    stevieboy Clouds yell at me Gold Supporting Member

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    This is my understanding, but every time the subject comes up someone comes up with some new to me wrinkle and I find out it's not quite what I thought. So take this as a starting point and feel free to give me a facepalm and say "stevieboy you ignorant slut... "

    In the early days Fender trademarked their headstock shapes but for some unknown reason neglected to trademark their body shapes. A recent attempt to trademark them retroactively failed. Warmoth, Allparts, Musikraft have licenses to make copies. USACG doesn't, and their Fender type headstock shapes are similar but not exact, different enough to get by legally.

    Gibson trademarked their body shapes and headstock shapes. The PRS shape is not all that close of a copy, so it wouldn't really apply to the OP's question, and Gibson lost the case. A lot of other guitars get a pass as well for that reason.

    I don't know how close a definition "exact" is held to.
     
  6. Lawliet

    Lawliet Member

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    Ok, thanks for answering. I'm really confused as to how this works from a legal standpoint so I was just wondering
     
  7. smallbutmighty

    smallbutmighty Member

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    stevieboy knows what's up.

    The general litmus test is if two designs are "confusingly similar". IOW, is it possible someone could see a guitar design and mistake it for another trademarked design or brand? This was Gibson's argument when they sued PRS. The courts decided that the PRS design was different enough that the average person would not see one and mistake it for a Gibson.

    Also, a company has to show that they have actively defended their trademarks and designs. They can't ignore other companies making similar designs for decades, and then suddenly "change their mind" and claim infringement. This is akin to what happened with Fender's headstock shapes and Allparts/Musikraft/Warmoth.

    It's also akin to what happened with Fender's body designs, the difference being that they were never trademarked in the first place, so when those designs were rules "functional shapes" they essentially became public domain.

    I'm not a copyright or trademark lawyer, so take my post for what it's worth. Incidentally, Warmoth's licensing agreement with Fender is posted on the Warmoth website, for anyone who wants to read it and learn more.
     
  8. smallbutmighty

    smallbutmighty Member

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    Oh...I'll add that a licensing agreement does not necessarily mean that the company being granted a license is provided by the company granting the license with the exact dimension, materials lists, and specs to make an identical copy. A licensing agreement does not imply an exact copy. Not at all.
     
  9. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

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    USACG doesn't do "licensed" simply because Tommy didn't wanna send FMIC a check every time he made a neck..


    The shape of the bodies are in the public domain now, so their fair game... but... the bodies we really want exact copies of, are the pre CBS genre... and few realize there are few if any that are exactly like the next.

    They were hand made... hand sanded, and if a ding appeared, it was sanded out... the thicknesses varied too... and while some of those variants were quite small, there is exact and there is not exact..

    all the licensing does is permit an aftermarket maker to duplicate some intellectual property that FMIC owns... nothing more.. In the case of necks, it's the head stock shape... the rest of the neck is simple geometry. If the nut is 1 ⅝ wide and the heel is 2 3/16 wide... it's a straight line from one end to the other.. back profiles wander all over the place too..

    and as far as quality... FMIC couldn't care if the licensed company was pressing 'em out of Guano, as long as the checks don't bounce.

    Ron Kirn
     

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