lawsuit guitars

TROUBLE? Lawsuit Guitars: The Great Debate

Have you ever heard the term, lawsuit guitar? What does it mean? Should you be worried about owning a guitar from this era?

Lawsuit guitars are guitars that were manufactured between the late 1950’s and early 1970’s. The term was coined during the 1970’s when they became popular. What makes these instruments so special is their unique sound, which cannot be duplicated by modern day guitars due to various legal changes to sound qualities in musical instruments.

What Is A Lawsuit Guitar?

The term ‘lawsuit guitar’ sound refers to guitars that are not exactly duplicates of the original design, but rather have minor changes that allow the manufacturer to avoid copyright infringement. These guitars are mostly made by factories and factories often do not have the original designs considered ‘lawsuit guitars’.

A Quick History Lesson In Lawsuit Guitars

In the late 1960s and 1970s, there was a boom in guitar manufacturing and sales. Companies like Fender were bringing out more models of guitars, contributing to the increase in the number of people wanting to learn guitar. Many of these companies made copies of popular models by other manufacturers.

In some cases, companies would even copy guitars from a different production year and place it on their model range, giving their own brand an edge over similar products. In most cases these were inexpensive copies that did not meet expectations. The bigger companies took legal action against the smaller companies with these products. The smaller manufacturers involved in the contract did not have enough money to cover legal costs, and some went out of business as a result.

But the big brands had a disadvantage too. They had invested lots of money and time in inventing new models and often, when they sued, the case failed because other companies had made similar products before theirs. In a matter of fact, some cases that took place between manufacturers had several companies on both sides, and one or two companies ended up losing the suit.

In the 1970s, Fender Guitars successfully sued Hoshino Gakki/Elger Guitars, the Japanese manufacturer of a guitar that was a copy of the Stratocaster. However, this case was not as simple as it was made to seem. There are several reasons why this case did not have as much impact on the industry in other countries. Firstly, Japanese companies were able to continue on manufacturing copies of popular models in other parts of the world.

Since the 80s there have been fewer lawsuits involving this subject, but there are still some manufacturers fighting legal battles over their designs even now.

We have to ask ourselves if we are using products made by a small manufacturer that sometimes does not have the ability to make the same quality product as large companies, is it fair to expect them to be able to get legal representation? There are some things that can be done with a company’s model design in order for them not to get sued. For example, in some cases manufacturers can increase the costs of producing guitars, change the color of the guitar and sometimes also change the shape.

The Impact of Lawsuits on the Industry

Despite the negative impact litigation had on some guitar companies, it is considered to be good thing for the industry. Firstly, the large manufacturers were able to establish their reputation and buy other companies in the market. Secondly, there are more products available for consumers to choose from. However, we must not forget that being a small company does not mean they are free of legal problems.

In 2010 there was a new wave of lawsuits involving lawsuits guitars and that forced many manufacturers to take legal action against their own brand name guitars. The public is aware of this situation and it is not just easy to find a lawsuit guitar by searching on Google or Yahoo, but actually we can find them easily by using specific search terms. Even the smallest manufacturers are able to take legal action against their product if they want.

The lawsuits that you see are more likely to be against guitars by smaller companies, rather than the big brands like Fender, Gibson and Ibanez. The reason behind this is because they usually have fewer resources available to take legal action against a company’s product. We must remember though that this is only if they can afford the company’s legal fees.

The question here is whether it is reasonable to expect a small company with a very small profit margin to pay for the legal fees of the large and profitable companies? Do you think that all companies should pay for the legal costs of all brands in the industry? If your answer to this question is no, then what should we do in order to avoid lawsuits like that? If you are satisfied with your guitar, then perhaps you need not worry about this.

Some Examples Of Guitar Lawsuits

1. Gibson Vs Ibanez

In 1977, Gibson sued Hoshino Gakki for favoring the higher quality guitar by continuing to copy their design. Two years later the court case was decided in favor of Gibson. The companies were ordered to stop selling copies of Gibson’s model Les Paul. A year after that, Epiphone and Aria were also included in the lawsuit. The Japanese company changed their design and named it “Thelawsuit” because they could sell it under this name.

2. Gibson Guitars Vs. Fender

In 1978, another lawsuit was filed by Gibson against Fender in which they declare that “Fender has not created a guitar that is unique, distinctive and different from other guitars.” In 1980, the court did not do anything about this, and Gibson had to change the name of their model. An agreement was made between both companies to avoid legal sanctions in the future. This included giving up the right to sell guitars under the name “lawsuit”.

3. Gibson Guitar Vs. Epiphone

This was another case in which Gibson sued another manufacturer for copying its models. In 1982, Fender and Gibson sued the Japanese company, Kushin/Epiphone for copying several models. The lawsuit lasted four years and ended with a win for Fender and Gibson. The companies were able to avoid legal action in the future by changing their model’s name to “Thelawsuit”, as Hoshino Gakki/Elger had done before them.

4. Fender Guitars Vs. Ibanez

In the late 1990s, another lawsuit was taken out against Alembic by Fender. However, this case did not go to court due to a settlement.

5. Jackson Vs Ibanez

Jackson decided to ask Ibanez to change their name in the early 2000s and instead of calling it “Jackson” they started selling it under “Thelawsuit”. In 2004, this case was settled after which the company changed its name from “Thelawsuit” to “Ibanez”.

How These Lawsuits Work

The lawsuit actually involves four people: the plaintiff, plaintiff’s lawyer, defense attorney and the judge. The plaintiff wants to get better benefits from the defendant company. If we compare this to a real-life lawsuit involving someone asking a company for better benefits or more money, the person asking for the money should involve at least two legal parties: their lawyer and the judge. This is because in order to get a win in court, there must be legal representation on both sides.

The only person on the side of the plaintiff is their lawyer who basically builds a case that the person is right and then gives it to a judge for the final verdict. The judge is the one who makes a decision whether this case will go to court or not. If the court decides to go ahead, then both parties will be forced to pay a lot of legal fees until they reach an agreement. This can take years, during which neither party can work in favor of keeping up with all of this stress.

Things To Keep In Mind

In a situation where there is no actual law that has been broken, the case can be dismissed. This is the same for cases where there isn’t enough or any evidence to back up the claim. If there’s enough evidence to prove that a loss may have occurred to a company, then they will try their best to simply avoid paying the money by settling out of court.


In conclusion, there are many lawsuits involving this subject. When it comes to guitar manufacturers, they usually end up getting sued not just by unsuccessful companies, but also by their own company in different countries. This is because if the company cannot afford the legal fees then they can take out a lawsuit against themselves at no cost to the small manufacturer.