If you’ve heard the saying: “If you can’t beat them, join them” you know it’s about accepting defeat. You’ve conceded that your opponent has bested you and you’ve decided to join the winning side. Well, it seems that maybe Gibson has its own take on this saying. Theirs seems more like: “if we can’t beat you in a lawsuit, we’ll start signing away your endorsers.” If you thought part one of this battle was contentious, read on for “Gibson vs Dean Part Deux: The Plundering.”
As you may be aware, Gibson sued Dean Guitars parent company two years ago for what they claimed was trademark infringement. According to Gibson, Dean borrowed from their trademarked designs of the Explorer and Flying V bodies, as well as the “Dove” model guitar. They also claimed that Dean was confusing buyers into thinking that they were buying a Gibson guitar as opposed to a Dean. As a result, Gibson was slammed by the press and artists just about everywhere for their actions. Dean countersued, saying that Gibson had threatened their dealer network to stop selling Dean Guitars or face the possibility that Gibson would drop them from their dealer network. Gibson appeared to back off, though the lawsuit was never dropped and it appears that two years later, it has gone nowhere. Dean has continued to sell its guitars, called the Z and the V, respectively and has even come out with new models based roughly on the Flying V – the Kerry King V.
Now it appears that Gibson is going after Dean’s endorsers instead. They announced this week that they have signed a major endorsement deal with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. Mustaine – endorsed guitars will cover the full line of electric and acoustic guitars in the Gibson family of products. After endorsing Dean guitars for more than a decade, Gibson was able to convince him to join their camp. You will soon see Mustaine-endorsed models coming from Gibson, Epiphone and Kramer guitars as shown below. If you’re Dave Mustaine, this seems like a great deal – your name is going to be all over the place on several different models in a multitude of price ranges. Dave Mustaine could be a household name. Wait a minute; wouldn’t that be the antithesis of a Metal guitar player, to become a household name? It could be a blessing and a curse, but we’ll leave that for another discussion.
Now, if you’ll notice as I did that Gibson couldn’t help throwing another jab at Dean. If you look closely at some of the Mustaine models shown, don’t the fingerboard inlays resemble wings, as in possibly the wings of the Dean logo? I smell a countersuit – one that I fear Dean could lose because according to a trademark lookup I did, they do not have a trademark on the inlay design. To me, they do resemble the Dean wings but I suppose that is subject to interpretation.
If you’re Dean Guitars, you should be a bit concerned: who do you think Gibson would target next on your list of artists? A few come to mind, Kerry King, Dimebag Darrell Abbott, Michael Schenker and Christian Martucci. Of these four I think Michael Schenker would be of particular interest to Gibson. In his heyday of the seventies, Michael became known for playing Gibson Flying V’s. One in a special black/white paint job became closely associated with him although his brother Rudy ended up getting an endorsement deal with Gibson for a similar color scheme which was a bit odd. Michael never endorsed Gibson.
Of course, I question the emphasis on these new endorsement deals with players who are in the 50s and 60s. Granted, the baby-boomer fans of these players may have the money to spend on guitars that cost thousands of dollars whereas young players may not. Still, I feel these companies should be focusing on the youth market. Their future as well as companies like Gibson’s should be focused on up and coming players, not just the baby-boomer market. Fender signed alternative artist Billie Eilish to a deal for their Fender Billie Eilish model ukelele. If I were at Gibson I would approach players like Jake Kiszka from Greta Van Fleet, who plays a Gibson SG almost exclusively. They already make a ’61 SG with tremolo like the one Jake plays. Why not make an official Jake Kiszka SG model? Maybe Dean will swoop in and offer Jake and endorsement deal on a new Dean model. Wouldn’t that be a thorn in Gibson’s side, after years of Jake playing Gibsons? This is really getting silly. I feel a little bit like Charlie Sheen in “Hotshots” – I can’t wait for “Part Trois – The Counter Plunder” and then “Part Quatre: The Counter-Counter Plunder!” Time to make the popcorn!
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