World-famous guitar manufacturer Gibson has abandoned its attempt to retain trademark rights to certain guitar shapes in the EU. The American company twice met with failure before the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in 2019, after it applied unsuccessfully to retain its trademarks for the iconic “Flying V” and “Firebird” guitar shapes. In its decision on the “Firebird” shape, the EUIPO said: “Guitar body shapes may perhaps function as trademarks for a tiny club of expert and discerning guitarists, but not for the average amateur, who is the relevant public in assessing distinctive character in this case”. Counting against Gibson was the fact that, by the time it applied for trademarks relating to “Firebird” in 2011, it had already been manufacturing guitars with that design for some fifty years. The EUIPO decision saw it canceling Gibson’s rights to the marks “Firebird”, “Flying V”, and another shape: “Thunderbird”.

Having engaged in infringement proceedings against numerous rival guitar manufacturers, Gibson, in an apparent change of heart, has now withdrawn its appeal against the EUIPO ruling. However, the company, established in 1902, insists that it still holds certain rights to the disputed guitar shapes, stating, in relation to “Firebird”, that “Gibson still holds several valid and enforceable rights to the Firebird design in the EU. Although there have been a number of disappointing rulings recently in the EU, invalidating such iconic designs as the Rubik’s cube; Gibson has decided not to appeal the limited ruling against one of its Firebird registrations because it holds other valid registrations which protect this iconic design”.

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