Gibson ends its fight for Firebird and Thunderbird body shape trademarks in the EU

The brand had initially appealed last year’s ruling that the shapes were generic.

Scott Holiday's 1999 Gibson Custom Firebird VII aka ‘Bluebird’

Image: Eleanor Jane

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Gibson has dropped its appeal against the European Union Intellectual Property Office’s (EUIPO) ruling that the Firebird and Thunderbird body shapes are generic.

The body shape trademark was initially cancelled by the EUIPO in October last year, after the motion to do so was brought to the table by Hans Peter Wilfer, CEO and owner of Warwick.

In a statement about the cancellation, the EUIPO explained its reasoning further: “Given the fact that several other manufacturers create guitars with a similar appearance, including the applicant, it is highly unlikely that the average consumer will rely solely on the shape as registered to indicate its origin. They would rather look for other indications, such as a brand name, to get more information on the manufacturer of the goods. The design of the guitar would have to be a far more radical departure from the norms or customs in the sector in order to fulfil the essential function of indicating the origin of the goods for which protection is sought. The public is used to different shapes of electric guitars in the market.”

Gibson initially appealed the decision, but today has withdrawn this appeal, meaning that the mark will be withdrawn.

It is important to note that the specific trademark in question is for this guitar body shape alone – effectively the outline of the guitar. Gibson has other, more detailed trademark protections covering other aspects of the design of its Firebird and Thunderbird instruments and body shapes.

The outcome is very similar to last year’s ruling about the Flying V body shape: the trademark cancellation only applies to musical instruments, and so Gibson still owns the Firebird and Thunderbird shapes in other areas, such as merchandising.

The news follows the revelation that Kiesel had been sent cease-and-desist letters by Gibson over its Ultra-V and California Single-Cut guitars.

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