While Gibson pursues protection of its Flying V body shape in the US - most notably by filing a lawsuit against Dean Guitars - the company won’t be able to trademark the electric guitar shape in the EU following the results of a recent court case.
According to Guitar.com (opens in new tab), the Second Chamber of the EU General Court ruled 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.”
The roots of the case date back to June 2010, when Gibson first filed a patent application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office; it was initially granted, but challenged by Warwick/Framus owner Hans-Peter Wilfer in October 2014.
Wilfer’s complaint was upheld in 2016, and a 2018 Gibson appeal was also lost, leading the guitar giant to take its case to the EU General Court.
This second appeal has now been dismissed by a panel of three judges, who ordered Gibson to pay costs.
The court declared that although the Flying V “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 characterised by a wide variety of available shapes.”
It should be noted that this ruling regards the Flying V body shape only; Gibson still has other EU patents for the design - including the bridge, electronics and headstock - as well as trademarks for the Flying V on merchandise.