The Flying V body shape was created back in the late 1950s and is one of the body shapes Gibson created for their stand at the Summer 57 NAMM show in Chicago.
Gibson had registered the flying-V trademark in 1997 in the US, in 2010 in the EU.
Since, there has been many challenge the registration.
EU ruling: Gibson waited too long to file for the Flying V shape as a trademark.
Originally Gibson had filed for a trademark claim for the guitar back in 16 June 2010, when Gibson filed a patent application for the Flying V shape with the European Union Intellectual Property Office. Then on October 2014 Hans-Peter Wilfer, the owner of Warwick and Framus went ahead and challenged the registration.
The Second Chamber of the EU General Court then stated “there has been no demonstration of distinctive character acquired,” by the Flying V and “that when the application for registration of the challenged mark was filed, the V-shape did not depart significantly from the norms and customs of the sector.”
In 2016, this case was heard by the EUIPO’s Cancellation Division, and Wilfer’s complaint was upheld. Gibson appealed, but then lost in 2018. So decided to appeal to the EU General Court and it has been dismissed again by a panel of three judges.
They stated that the Flying V guitar “was very original when it was released on the market in 1958, it cannot however deny the evolution of the market during the following 50 years, which was henceforward characterized by a wide variety of available shapes.”
“The presence on the market of a significant number of shapes encountered by consumers makes it unlikely that they will regard a particular shape as belonging to a specific manufacturer rather than being just one of the variety of shapes characterizing the market.”
Essentially, to wrap this whole debacle up in one sentence for you, Gibson waited too long to file for the Flying V shape as a trademark.
They do still hold patents for other aspects of the Flying V and also the Flying V body shape in other non guitar areas like clothing or jewelry.
US ruling: Dean did infringed Gibson’s trademark. But since it took too long for Gibson to exercise its right. Gibson had only be awarded just USD$4000 instead of USD $7,000,000 sought by Gibson.
Gibson vs Dean
The court ruling filed on 27 May 2022 was decided by a jury.
The jury said May 27 that Armadillo Distribution Enterprises Inc. knocked off Gibson’s Flying V, Explorer, and SG guitar designs with its Dean-branded guitars. But while rejecting Armadillo’s claims that the shapes were generic, the jury also found Gibson waited too long to sue and ultimately awarded just $4,000 of the $7 million sought by Gibson.
Rulings involving laches—unreasonable delay in bringing the suit—are case specific. But competitors, including Armadillo, could point to the finding as evidence Gibson didn’t sufficiently police the marks.
Even newcomers could benefit from “a jury finding that there was a second source of guitars in these shapes for an extended period of time, and Gibson did nothing about it.”
“The longer you wait, the more difficult it is to enforce on anyone.”
Gibson’s ‘Pyrrhic’ Verdict Leaves Guitar-Shape IP Status Unclear. 2022
Gibson loses Flying V trademark case in EU court. 2019