Gibson have taken another blow in their quest for pure authenticity, with news breaking today that the company has lost its trademark case to protect the body shape of the Flying V in the EU.
Although Gibson have copped a fair amount of criticism in the last few weeks for their baffling approach towards brand management, it's important to note that this trademark claim was filed way back in June 2010, with Gibson filing a patent application for the Flying V shape in the European Union Intellectual Property Office. The registration of the trademark claim was then officially challenged in 2014 by the owner of Warwick and Framus, setting up a Transatlantic stand off between the two guitar manufacturing heavyweights.
Ultimately, Warwick and Framus's complaint was upheld in a decision made by the European Union Intellectual Property Office's Cancellation Division in 2016. Gibson later appealed this decision (to no avail) in 2018 before taking it to the EU General Court, where the case was found to be invalid by three judges. However, Gibson still retain ownership over the usage of the Flying V shape in other non-guitar related fields, such as jewellery, t-shirts, posters and more.
As reported by Guitar.com, the Second Chamber of the EU General Court stated that “there has been no demonstration of distinctive character acquired,” in the attempt to trademark the design of the Flying V, and 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 EU General Court elaborated on the decision by pointing out the common usage of the Flying V shape by guitar makers in the decades preceding the patent application, claiming that while Gibson's Flying V design 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.”
“The presence on the market of a significant number of shapes encountered by consumers makes it unlikely that they will regard a particular shape as belonging to a specific manufacturer rather than being just one of the variety of shapes characterising the market.”