Heritage Guitars Files Defensive Lawsuit Against Gibson Over Alleged Trademark Threats

Over the weekend, Heritage Guitars released a statement on its Instagram page announcing that it had filed a defensive lawsuit against fellow Michigan-born guitar brand Gibson "in response to," the statement reads, "an ongoing and excessive campaign of harassment by the Gibson team since they came under new ownership."

The relationship between these two brands is an interesting one, with Heritage Guitars having grown out of Gibson. Back in 1984, when Gibson decided to leave its Kalamazoo, Michigan factory, a group of longtime Gibson guitar builders stayed behind and founded Heritage Guitars—even buying space in the same iconic factory.

Initially, Gibson felt that the guitars Heritage produced were too similar to those that Gibson had made its name building. The two brands came to an amicable, confidential agreement in 1991 and have been, according to Heritage's statement, enjoying a "peaceful coexistence for nearly 29 years."

It seems as though the tides have turned—Heritage blames Gibson's new management, while Gibson blames new releases by Heritage—and the spiritual-sibling brands are embroiled in battle once more.

"We were surprised when threats and spurious claims that were inconsistent with our original agreement started coming in from Gibson's new management team," Heritage wrote. "We responded promptly and amicably, despite their aggressive threats to 'outspend' us legally if we didn’t comply. ... Yesterday’s action was about us standing up and showing we're not going to be bullied by companies that lack the integrity to stand by their word."

Yesterday, Gibson issued a formal statement of its own in response to both the lawsuit and Heritage's statement. The brand defended its position on the matter, writing that its legal team reached out without suing Heritage, and only after Heritage "launched some new guitars that clearly did not respect, nor adhere to, the original contract." Gibson also claimed that Heritage used "misleading and misrepresenting" language on its website, which further confused people into thinking this line of Heritage guitars were, in fact, Gibsons.

Gibson reiterated that its intention was to come to a "constructive resolution" with regard to the Heritage breaches. But, Gibson also added it "will not accept that Heritage Guitars, owned by BandLab, in partnership with real estate developers, can re-write Gibson’s history or blatantly breach a good faith contract."

Stay tuned for more on this story as it develops.

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