After Gibson lost its appeal (opens in new tab) against the loss of its trademark on the Flying V guitar body shape in the European Union in June, it’s lost another trademark with the Firebird body shape.
The decision by the Cancellation Division of the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO (opens in new tab)) was handed down on 11 October 2019.
According to Guitar.com (opens in new tab), the EUIPO stated in relation to the Firebird body shape that it "does not consider this to be significantly different from the normal style of electric guitars".
Interestingly, the EUIPO put forward the idea in its judgment that even though guitarists may be able to identify a guitar's outline, it's more relevant whether a non-player can. And it doesn't consider this to be the case for the Firebird (opens in new tab).
“Guitar body shapes may perhaps function as trademarks for a tiny club of expert and discerning guitarists," the EUIPO stated, "but not for the average amateur, who is the relevant public in assessing distinctive character in this case.”
The decision also cited Gibson waiting for almost 50 years after the Firebird’s introduction before filing for the trademark in 2011 as a contributing factor.
Just like the Flying V trademark case (opens in new tab), the application to request the cancellation of the trademark came from the same man; Warwick and Framus guitars founder and owner, Hans-Peter Wilfer.
All this only applies to the Firebird body shape in relation to musical instruments in the EU, and not the USA and other areas. Also, the company’s trademark in the EU remains on the body shape for representation on other products such as clothing merchandise.
Gibson's trademark issues and its different approaches (opens in new tab) to dealing with it are not going away anytime soon and we’re expecting it to appeal the EUIPO decision, like it did in the Flying V (opens in new tab) case, so look out for further updates.