Get Your Paper Jamz Guitars While You Can

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Gibson Guitar Corp. sued a number of companies last week, alleging infringement of its guitar body shapes. The principal target of its ire appears to be WowWee Group Ltd., who makes a line of toy instruments called "Paper Jamz." These instruments are sold through numerous well-known retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, many of whom Gibson also sued. (Suing retailers being a topic for a whole 'nother discussion someday.)

Trademark geeks may recall the last installment in the getting-to-be long-running history of securing trademark rights in guitar body shapes, which was Fender Music's effort to register the shapes of its Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Precision Bass instruments. Numerous companies opposed those applications, and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board sustained the oppositions (PDF here), because Fender could not prove distinctiveness--it had not policed the marketplace for similarly-shaped instruments very well at all and could not prove that the shapes of its guitar bodies distinguished them from other guitar makers (despite many competitors openly suggesting that their models were Fender look-alikes).

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