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Gibson and Heritage Settle Ongoing Trademark Dispute

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Gibson Brands and Heritage Guitar officially finalized a settlement agreement after a years-long legal battle over alleged trademark infringement.

Nashville-based Gibson and Kalamazoo’s own Heritage settled a complaint which the latter company filed in March 2020. The action has been dismissed with prejudice, by order of Judge Hala Y. Jarbou.

The plaintiff business was founded in 1985 by former Gibson staffers, after their previous employer relocated the company to Tennessee in 1976. Once Gibson had stopped using its Kalamazoo factory, the former employees purchased the building and a portion of the equipment on site. They then began to make and sell instruments as Heritage.

This course of events set the guitar companies up for a lawsuit in 1990, as Gibson sued for alleged trademark infringement over the design and appearance of specific Heritage guitars. Both parties settled in 1991, and per Heritage’s new lawsuit filed in 2020, they and Gibson for nearly three decades, “went their separate ways, each selling its own well-known guitars into the market, with no problems or issues.”

But after Gibson’s bankruptcy in 2018, the new majority owner KKR-led team, “threatened to sue Heritage … presumably because of a prior unfavorable trademark decision” within the 1991 suit settlement, per the new Heritage suit filed. As the two parties have put the dispute to rest, the specific terms of the agreement have not been made public.

Written by: Rick Welke

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