Gibson’s woes continue with $50 million robot tuner lawsuit
Remember Gibson’s robot tuner system? Well, its licensor, Tronical, is taking Gibson to court over licensing fees and a “breach of contract.”
The G FORCE tuning system. Image: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg
Another day, another slice of bad news for Gibson. The guitar giant is being sued by Tronical, the German company that licenses to Gibson its patented ‘robot’ tuning system, for $50 million.
The case boils down to several disputes regarding licensing fees and contractual terms for Tronical’s Powertune tuning system, which Gibson markets as “G FORCE.” The lawsuit has been pending before the Hamburg State Court since December last year, but Tronical yesterday announced it is raising the damages it seeks.
“Tronical is claiming licensing fees to the amount of $23 million from the share in the profits agreed in the contract, and a further $27 million on the grounds of Gibson’s breach of contract of the exclusive research and development agreement with Tronical, which Gibson should have met by 2026,” the company’s CEO Chris Adams said in a statement to Music Radar.
Branded by Gibson initially as “Min-ETune” and then as “G FORCE,” the Powertune system is designed to automatically tune strings via a servo motor within each machine head. It made its Gibson debut in 2007, but only in 2015 did it become a standard component in the company’s guitars.
It didn’t stick. Players found G FORCE unnecessary, over-complicated and a little wonky; many even paid to remove the system from their six-strings. And so the system was gradually dropped over the years, only appearing on a few of Gibson’s 2018 models.
Needless to say, this year hasn’t been kind to Gibson. The company faces a summer deadline to refinance its massive debt, and its recent negotiations with KKR Credit Advisors over a potential takeover have broken down. These developments have forced Gibson to lay off staff, relocate factories and sell assets such as Cakewalk, which was revived by BandLab Technologies earlier this month as a free software.