Top: JHS Vintage VS6, Gibson SG


Gibson Loses $8 Million Guitar Counterfeit Claim

On Sept. 29, U.K. guitar maker John Hornby Skewes (JHS) was granted summary judgement dismissing an $8 million guitar counterfeiting claim brought against it by Gibson Guitars.

Gibson sued JHS in early 2014 on account of trademark infringement, alleging that Gibson owned trademarks in certain two-dimensional body and headstock shapes, and that JHS had violated those trademarks.

The District Court found that the "guitars in question cannot be deemed identical or substantially indistinguishable from each other." JHS argued that it should be granted judgement as a matter of law on the counterfeiting count, since all its guitars prominently display the brand name Vintage," and all advertising and packaging state that the guitars came from JHS. JHS moved for summary judgement and was approved; which, in turn, eliminated Gibson's ability to collect $8 million in statutory damages.

The court concluded that "no reasonable jury could find that [Skewes]'s guitars were counterfeits of Gibson's guitars," and explained that "counterfeiting is the 'hard core' or 'first degree' of trademark infringement that seeks to trick the consumer into believing he or she is getting the genuine article."

The remaining claims, set for trial in February 2017, limit damages to profits on the sale of about 300 guitars, according to the court.;