Gibson’s Mark Agnesi warns ‘copycats’ to stop “forging” its guitars

“To the manufacturers out there, we want you to know that you’ve been warned,” said the company’s Director Of Brand Experience, Mark Agnesi.

Gibson Les Paul shutterstock
Image: JFGagnonPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Gibson has stirred an online storm over a YouTube video in which its Director Of Brand Experience, Mark Agnesi, issued a warning to guitar builders over trademark infringement.

In the now-deleted video, titled Play Authentic, Agnesi summarised the company’s history of design innovation, highlighting the ‘crown’ inlay on SGs and the ‘mouse ear’ body shape of a 335 as Gibson trademarks. He then cautioned other brands, boutique or otherwise, against producing “forgeries” of these design elements: “To the manufacturers out there, we want you to know that you’ve been warned.”

“People ask us a lot about forgeries and counterfeit guitars, often of lower craftsmanship coming in from overseas,” Agnesi said. “But there’s some common misconceptions about what a forgery is and what trademark infringement is. Any copy of any one of those designs that we’ve named [in the video] is in fact by definition a counterfeit Gibson guitar.”

Agnesi tempered the warning by clarifying that this isn’t about Gibson trying to “stifle the boutique marketplace” – but the internet didn’t agree. Comments on Reddit and Twitter accused the guitar giant of being “bullies” and “trolls”. One Facebook user even unearthed a 2016 Norman’s Rare Guitars video that featured Agnesi waxing lyrical about a 70s-era Ibanez copy of a Flying V.

gibson es-335
A Gibson ES-335

Luthiers are also piping up. Derek Lenard, founder of Big D Guitars, responded with a video that criticised Gibson as a “corporate business” with no “heart and soul”. “The hedge fund investor, whatever, corporate raider that bought them now wants to get a return. And one of the things that they’ll do is come after intellectual property via lawyers,” Lenard said before urging his fellow luthiers to keep a close eye on their businesses. “Be careful, guys, with Gibson and what you’re selling, how you’re naming things. They are pretty aggressive.”

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However, not all responses to the video have been decidedly negative. One Reddit user commented that Gibson is to guitars what Triumph and Harley-Davidson are to motorcycles: they are “nostalgia/tradition/experience” brands. “It makes sense that Gibson needs to defend that stuff,” continued the Redditor. “If you can have the nostalgic experience at a more reasonable price, then the brand loses its spot in the marketplace. It has to defend ‘the real thing’, because that is its product. They are never going to produce a guitar that will sit side by side on quality and price with, for example, the [Classic Vibe Teles].”

Gibson is yet to comment on the video or its decision to pull it from YouTube.

Watch Lenard of Big D Guitars’ response here:

While the original Gibson video has since been taken down, Redditors have uploaded a mirrored version.

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