Spotlight On: Fender Trademarks

Fender Lawsuit

  • Few people know that Fender have protected their most iconic guitar headstock shapes with registered trademarks.
  • These marks have been protected across the EU and Canada as well.
  • This means that if someone were to produce guitars using the same shaped headstocks, without Fender’s permission, they could be at risk of trademark infringement.
  • Unlike patents, which have a limited term of protection (usually 20 years), trademarks can last forever, provided they are looked after.
  • A trademark is an indicator of trade origin, and because consumers can identify a Fender guitar by the shape of the headstock alone, that shape is registrable as a trademark.
  • Fender is a keen defender of its trademark rights.
  • It recently filed a lawsuit against Haywire Custom Guitars Inc. on the grounds of trademark infringement.
  • In the lawsuit, Fender states:
    • “15. The headstock is the key source-identifying feature of the modern electric guitar. In particular, the shape of the headstock (which, in the types of guitars at issue here, is part of a single piece of wood that also includes the guitar neck) is nonfunctional and primarily serves to identify the brand and model of the guitar. Fender owns trademark rights and federal registrations for the shapes of its headstock designs. These marks are instantly recognizable to generations of musicians and music fans as indicators of the source of Fender’s products and of the immense history and goodwill associated with Fender.”
  • Above is a table, presented in the lawsuit, providing an interesting overview of some of Fender’s trademarks

Guest post by Sharon Daboul, Trademark Attorney, EIP

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