The builder of Prince’s Cloud guitar speaks out on the trademark dispute with the late pop icon’s estate

(Image credit: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images)

Dave Rusan, the luthier behind Prince’s iconic Cloud guitar, has spoken out about the trademark dispute with the late singer’s estate, Paisley Park, that has threatened his production of the custom electrics.

Rusan trademarked the design for the Cloud guitar on 20 February 2018, but has since received a letter from Paisley Park ordering him to surrender the trademark. 

Paisley Park sell a Schecter-built Cloud guitar replica on the Prince website for $1,750. Rusan's deluxe replicas of the Cloud guitar are priced $8,000 and are available in a variety of finishes, each built to the same specification's as Prince’s original Cloud guitar, and Rusan believes that Paisley Park should compromise on the issue.

“The goal as to my dealings with Paisley Park is to resolve this conflict in a way that is equitable to both parties,” Rusan told Guitar World. “I want nothing from them other than to be left alone to make my guitars for appreciative fans of Prince and the guitar I made him to play in Purple Rain.”

Rusan was working in the Minneapolis guitar store Knut Koupee in 1983, when he was approached by Prince and asked to make a guitar based on the 1970s Sardonyx bass that André Cymone played in the video for Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. 

As Rusan remembers it, Prince specified that the custom electric had to be in white, with gold hardware and an EMG pickup.

This became the famous Cloud guitar, with the elongated curl of the top horn an ornate flourish on a bodyshape and finish that would become synonymous with Purple Rain. 

All in, Rusan made four Cloud guitars for Prince. After Prince’s death in 2016, demand grew for Rusan’s custom-built instruments. 

“I’ve been building replicas of the Cloud occasionally over the years since I did the ones for Prince,” says Rusan. “It became more of a full-time endeavor after Prince’s death when interest in them took off. I’ve built around 15 so far and have orders for another 15.”

Rusan is unsure as to how this might shake out but posts regular updates to his Rusan Guitarworks Facebook page. Paisley Park has yet to respond.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.

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