Gibson have announced plans for an Authorised Partnership Program with "three or four" unspecified boutique guitar makers in an attempt to soften their stance in the midst of their trademark lawsuit against Dean Guitars.
Gibson CEO James ‘JC’ Curleigh detailed the company's so-called "collaboration, not confrontation" approach to Nashville's News Channel 5 in an exclusive interview yesterday.
“We’ve entered into some agreements with three or four boutique guitar companies, and basically, they actually love Gibson, and we actually love them,” Curleigh said.
“We just have to have a conversation around where the lines are between shapes and names, etc. And what’s amazing is, as soon as we enter into those conversations, it leads to a collaborative, creative conversation."
Curleigh says the mechanics of these new relationships "involves simple language around how many you make and what it’s going to involve and there may be some type of royalty dynamic".
"We’re also going to support them in marketing terms, so it’s not a revenue generating dynamic for us at all, whether by magnitude scale or by deal, it’s more acknowledgment that these are some shapes that we’ve created.”
Presumably, the boutique guitar makers involved will reveal themselves later this week at the Summer NAMM conference. The move serves to allay some of the bad publicity Gibson attracted through their controversial Play Authentic video, though Curleigh is hardly apologetic about the intention or effect of its release.
“Tone and timing of that video, clearly, lessons to be learned,” Curleigh says. “But guess what: we’re taking down hundreds of websites, thousands of guitars we’re intercepting that are knockoffs, so it served a purpose.”
As to the trademark infringement case with Dean Guitars, Curleigh's stance has only hardened, claiming there is a spectrum between counterfeit and boutique.
"The spectrum can be wide, but it can also be definitive or grey depending on how you look at it, and the definitive part is the known counterfeit/knockoffs,” says Curleigh.
“The other end of that spectrum are these really amazing boutique guitarists and guitar luthiers who are making 10, 20, 50, 100 guitars and they’re shaping them either for their artists or their own business. And then that centre point are some brands that just knowingly sort of take advantage of the shapes that you’ve created, and because they’ve been using them for a long time they think they’re theirs.”
It's some passive aggressive stuff from Curleigh, but it's a change from allegedly threatening local dealerships with legal action. Music Radar notes the other Gibson news: the company is moving its HQ to central Nashville, with a building twice the size of its current base on the outskirts of the city. This will support plans to accomodate a museum or showroom as part of its factory. The once bankrupt company is certainly making moves.
Struggling to get your head around this clash of the guitar company titans? Read the original story here, and stay tuned to Mixdown for updates on the legal case as they come.