I have been modding and repairing guitars for years. I have sold guitars on craigslist, ebay, and online stores.

My wife's cousin lives in Hungary. He can make guitar bodies and necks for super cheap, paint them, and send them to me. I can install great brand name hardware and electronics from here in the US, and have a really nice custom guitar to sell on ebay, Amazon, or other online stores. I will put my companies name on the headstock.


What can I not do as far as guitar shapes and headstock shapes, without getting into trouble with Tradmark problems?

1) Gibson --- Right now on ebay there are a lot of Les Paul looking guitars for sale. How much different does a Les Paul looking guitar need to be? Why are these sellers not getting into trouble?

2) Fender --- There are tons of Fender Strat and Tele looking guitars on ebay. How much different do they need to be?

3) Or Other Brands?

People are so used to seeing the Gibson and Fender shapes. If I make something totally different and freaky, many people will not want to buy it, some will, but many will not want it. I did some research on it, but it is really blurry. Gibson says that they won a case with the "Les Paul" trademark shape, but there's a ton of them on ebay today. So, how are they getting away with it?

I do not want to pass off something as a Gibson or Fender. My guitars will have different hardware, electronics, and my company name.

Any feedback will be great!

If you want to be legit and operate with confidence you certainty should consider spending a bit on a consult with a trademark attorney and get educated to what you can/can't do and how "close" you can get w/o worry of violations.

Trademark infringement in the case of something like a guitar should be pretty easy to avoid as it appears that the primary things trademarked are Logos, Brand Name, Model Names/Numbers and perhaps specific tweaks to the design (Gibson Headstock Wings, Dean Extreme V headstock shape, etc...) The overall SG, or Telecaster or Strat body are not trademarked...that is exactly why there are so many copies...you can buy virtually any guitar body from Warmoth currently and not worry.

This article below about this exact issue with Ebay below (you may have read, if not read it) is pretty helpful - if you attempt some uniqueness in your design, do not mention the original brand in anyway in your post/description and keep your names/model names and numbers different and don't use any comparison language you will likely be fine.

My fee for this incredibly enlightening advice is one extremely pimped out versions of your axes - pm for the address you can ship it to overnight LOL.

Jackson: DKMG w/Zakk Wylde EMGs
Fender: Fat Strat HSS
Epiphone: Les Paul Custom w/SD Pickups
Dean: Performer E Acoustic/Electric
Vox: DA5
Vox JamVox
Digitech: GNX4 Workstation
Digitech: EX-7 Distortion Factory
Boss DR-880
MAudio Bx5a Deluxe
Last edited by Dazzl1113 at Mar 18, 2014,

Be original and be rich and famous. Those that copy don't ever do as well.

there is ONE les paul, ONE fender. 1000 copies of each, it not more. And nobody lusts after a copy.

Bottom line, to succeed you need to have a USP - unique selling proposition. As in, with all the guitars for sale why should a buyer choose YOURS over ALL OTHERS? if you can't tell my why your's is the BEST ONE EVER then you'r enot likely to get my money.

As for TM...many things are TM'd in teh US only...it's pretty hard to sue chang kai guitaro for breaking a us law when they're not a us company. (as a photographer i've seen many images stolen by folks in foreign countries breaking us copyright law...no way to sue and win)
Thanks Guys!

So from what I read today, if I stick to Strat type and Tele type bodies, and change the neck design, I should be good to go? I just designed a neck really quick a few minutes ago with Photoshop. I have applied for my Trademark, got the paperwork, but it is still pending. It can take up to a year and a half, but so far everything is a go.

I chose not to use the term "Made In USA" since they will not be "Totally Made" here. On my logo, NC, USA is where we are located and do the final creation. (Designed, electronics, hardware, setup, and shipping) - So I should be good to go with that part.

What I have found is, anything that I have ever placed on ebay sells, like guitars, car parts, old Metal CD's, exercise gear, stuff I was going to throw out, etc. I just about bought a fake Strat the other day after seeing and hearing the youtube clip of it. Some 20 year old guy from Texas made it. I couldn't care less about the brand name. It was awesome and $800.00, but my bills came first, otherwise I would have hit the "buy it now button". It sounded that great!

The used car salesman motto is "There's an ass for every seat". If enough people look at something for long enough, someone will buy it. If something is of nice quality, sounds great, and looks great, that's enough for me to buy it.

Here is the quick simple design below of a neck, so that I won't get in trouble with Fender. I did it so random that it would be totally impossible to be another exactly like it in the world.

Twanger Guitars
Gibson tried to sue PRS over the singlecut shape, and won the first go-round, then lost on appeal. Thus we have a whole ton of LP style guitars on the market. The headstock shape isn't trademarked (though the Gibson logo is), but Gibson argues that people copying the headstock shape "confuse" the consumer. So far that really hasn't held water in court for other litigants, but what *really* happens is that Gibson's lawyers send out Cease and Desist letters. This is usually just a shot over the bows of the offender, and a notice that a war of "deep pockets" is about to ensue. More often than not, the smaller entity will simply change the headstock a bit and they're good to go. Gibson really doesn't own the headstock shape, and they can be beaten in court, but the real question is whether or not someone cares enough (or has money enough) to complete the very expensive intellectual property lawsuit right through to court.

Same goes with Fender. There are simply too many people out there using the Fender shapes that Fender doesn't often bother with the small potatoes builders, and those who DO attract their attention usally just change the headstock slightly and move on.

Sometimes the change (in body shape, for example) can work to the advantage of the small guy. Agile has what I usually refer to as a thalidomide baby cutaway horn (google it). As it turns out, the stubby horn may look odd to someone who's got the Gibson look ingrained in his brain, but it allows better upper fret access, and I've found I prefer it.
Cool Guys!

After reading a bunch lawsuit information, and posts from different sites, I now know for sure that if I change the headstock design on Gibson and Fender type guitars, I can make some cool guitars without the worry of being sued. I am not going to make exact copies anyway. They might look similar, here and there, but it's better to be safe than sorry!

Quote by prof_fate
As for TM...many things are TM'd in teh US only...it's pretty hard to sue chang kai guitaro for breaking a us law when they're not a us company. (as a photographer i've seen many images stolen by folks in foreign countries breaking us copyright law...no way to sue and win)

I feel compelled to point out that there is a difference between Trademark and Copyright.
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