Since emerging from bankruptcy less than a year ago, Gibson has made significant progress in the key areas that matter most to guitarists around the world. With a clear focus on quality, a new collection of original and modern guitars, and a more confident dealer and artist base, the new team at Gibson have proven they can listen to the market to create new solutions. But there is still more work to be done and the new team at Gibson remain on a mission.
While new management is building on the legacy, quality and craftsmanship that guitarists have come to love and expect from Gibson, they will also continue to manage and attempt to resolve the conflicts of the past.
Apart from inheriting an iconic brand, the team have also inherited a host of challenges that they realized would take time to achieve proper resolution. A clear challenge has been in the area of brand protection, where a legacy of legal issues exist with both legitimate companies in the industry infringing on iconic trademarks and with illegitimate entities attempting to counterfeit, "knock off" and pretend to be Gibson in the market.
Over the past eight months, the team have successfully dealt with over 4,500 counterfeit and "knock-off" guitars coming from overseas that were clearly designed to confuse the consumer into thinking they were buying a real Gibson. Since November (2018), there have been dozens of counterfeit web site "take-downs," also designed to confuse the guitarist into thinking they were entering a legitimate, official web site. On a weekly basis, Gibson receives multiple queries and concerns from guitarists mislead into purchasing what they thought was a genuine Gibson that turned out to be counterfeit. Unfortunately, this is a very real dynamic that brands, like Gibson and other iconic brands, need to deal with on a regular basis. The main area of brand protection on these types of issues is with trademark ownership, understanding, and assertion. Hence Gibson's recent attempts to communicate its position, which was predominantly focused on these rogue overseas players in the market. If left unchecked, these situations can lead to continued consumer confusion and can ultimately affect the integrity of an entire industry.
Recently, there has been a wide spectrum of both support and criticism with the approach that has been taken by Gibson in the market regarding brand protection. While there are clear lessons to be learned around tone and legal explanations, the past few weeks have provided a real-time opportunity for Gibson to start making the pivot from less legal leverage to more industry collaboration, with appropriate levels of awareness.
With regards to other guitar brands and companies in the marketplace, Gibson has filed specific lawsuits over the past several years with the intention of protecting its original trademark(s) rights and to avoid consumer confusion in the market. All of the recent attention on the few lawsuits in process stem from several years of legal action initiated well before the new leadership arrived in November of 2018. With specific regards to the inherited and ongoing legal dynamic with Dean Guitars, the new Gibson team have made several attempts to communicate with them directly to avoid a prolonged legal battle. Gibson has genuine intentions of constructive resolution that could be beneficial to both sides.
This recent situation has led the team to re-evaluate their approach going forward with the intention of finding more constructive solutions to managing brand protection in the industry. Over the past few weeks, Gibson has made significant progress in reducing counterfeit "attacks" and they have entered into creative collaboration agreements with key boutique guitar makers and other related industry parties. A clear indication of their intentions going forward.
"I am proud of the progress we have made with our attention to quality, with the launch of the new collections, and with our renewed engagement to our Gibson authorized dealer base. At the same time, we acknowledge there are still legacy challenges to solve going forward, especially around brand protection and market solutions," says James "JC" Curleigh, the new president and CEO of Gibson. "It is time to make the modern-day shift from confrontation towards collaboration, whilst still protecting our brands, and we are committed to making this happen starting now."