Hey all,

Bit of a special question here.

I recently discovered the ESP Angel Sword guitar online and instantly fell in love with it, no matter how cliché it may look. However, it's basically impossible to find one for sale anywhere (the only one I could find online sells for a "small" amount of 9'999$ and I don't even know if this offer is actually still available).

So the only option would be to have one manufactured as a custom. Now - how does this look trademark / copyright - wise? Is there such a thing as a copyright on guitar shapes? If I had it done as a custom, I of course would not want an ESP logo on it, it's just about the body type.

I'm just a hobby musician at home, so the guitar will probably never see the light of a stage or audience (maybe except for YouTube if I did a review on the guitar). But I don't want to get shit on by ESP because I would have had it manufactured somewhere else.

What do you guys think - a problem?
I think it would depend on whether or not the actual body shape was copyrighted/trademarked.

For instance, everyone makes Fender Strat copies, but no one can copy the exact headstock shape because it is copyrighted/trademarked iirc.
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There USED to be, but the lawsuits over it have basically settled into a pattern of:

1) you can't copy a guitar down to the minutest details
2) copying parts- a body or headstock- is OK, as long as you don't violate 1
3) an exact copy of an iconic part- typically headstocks- is a violation.

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I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

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Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

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Intellectual property gets confusing. Copyright is usually NOT involved in guitar litigation -- that's usually reserved for books, videos, photographs and artistic works. Trademark, on the other hand, involves names, terms and symbols that are used to identify the source of goods and/or services on the market.

Gibson was NOT able to claim that the single-cut body shape was a trademark because there were too many singecut guitars out there. When it came to a court judgement, PRS won on appeal when it noted that one of GIBSON's witness had stated that he had no trouble identifying Gibson product differentiated from PRS "across a room," I believe. Gibson has not (as far as I know) been able to trademark the "open book" headstock shape, either. That would require them defending that trademark in court should someone with enough money attack their attempt to trademark it, and Gibson would likely lose. They've trademarked the Gibson logo, of course, as well as the "Les Paul" script on the guitars. Thing is, some of the other things that *could* have been trademarked have fallen into public domain because they've been picked up and used across the board by other manufacturers. The same has happened with Fender products (though "Stratocaster" is trademarked, as is the Fender logo.

Most body shapes other than the LP and Strat aren't trademarked or, if they are, they've not been defended in court. Intellectual property that's not defended falls into the public domain. The problem is that launching an IP suit is stupifyingly expensive, especially if taken all the way to a trial, so a small firm will almost never have the ability to protect its property unless a good IP law firm is willing to take it on a contingency basis.
The body shape would have to be so distinct that it would be immediately recognizable in order to earn a copyright or a trademark. Gibson's Les Paul and SG are not such guitars. Within the last few years, a court decided that Fender's Stratocaster was not such a guitar, though that may have had something to do with how long the lawsuit took to reach completion. In contrast, Ibanez has the Iceman design, which doesn't really look like anything else. Such a design could be copyrighted - if it is not so already.

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What do you guys think - a problem?

If you're making a one off for your personal use, there shouldn't be an issue, and you're unlikely to attract ESP attention.
Make a half dozen and offer them for sale and you've likely got a problem.
Lots of great answers here, thanks @all. Since I will only use it for myself, I think I'll go ahead. Thanks for the advices!
I believe headstock shapes and logos are the only part trademarked. Body shapes are free game and long as it is not an exact copy. As was stated, PRS beat Gibson in court. Sadly, Gibson went after Anderson and they stopped making their Bulldog singlecut because he didn't want the financial burden of a drawn out court battle (which is exactly what Gibson wants).

If it is for you and not for resale, go ahead. Just don't put the logo of the copied maker on the guitar. If you do, you've crossed the line into counterfeiting. Don't get me wrong, there are many builders who will make anything you want, down to the logo. But you will pay handsomely for it, and they don't advertise.
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Yeah if you are making a one off custom for personal use there shouldn't be an issue as long as you are not selling it and trying to pass it off and an ESP.

Just be sure to get a firm estimate before committing to a contract for a custom build because as intricate as that design is it will take hours of work and may end up being quite pricey as a custom build.
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ESP is the king of ripping off other guitar designs. (Navigator especially). Oh the irony of them suing someone over that.
Last edited by Diatribes at Dec 28, 2016,
Quote by Diatribes
I think you mean patent not copywrite.
ESP is the king of ripping off other guitar designs. (Navigator especially). Oh the irony of them suing someone over that.

No, it's trademark that's at issue, not copyright (not "copywrite", either) or patent. A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention (not a guitar body shape). So a Floyd Rose trem design would be patented, while the Floyd Rose name would be trademarked and a photograph of a Floyd Rose trem would be copyrighted.

Each has a *duration* or term of enforcement/protection.
A patent lasts between 14 and 20 years, depending on the kind of patent.
Copyrights last for the life of the author plus 70 years, for 95 years to 120 years for "work for hire" type things. This one used to be a lot shorter, but Disney realized that Mickey Mouse was about to become public domain because he was reaching the end of his copyright period some years back, so Disney tossed large amounts of money at legislators and got the period extended.
Trademarks don't expire as long as the mark is continuously used for business purposes. Gibson's logo is trademarked, but the shape of the LP body is not, nor is the headstock design (they *want* it to be trademarked, but they'd lose in a court if it ever got that far. For now they rely on deep pockets and the incredibly expensive process of getting to court to keep copiers at bay. It's worth noting that trademarks are only used in commerce and that they may not extend beyond the borders of the state or of the United States (unless there's a treaty or agreement in place that locks that in). So you may see someone with a blatant copy of a Gibson guitar in another country who owns a trademark for that particular country suing another manufacturer for copying *their* Gibson copy. And Gibson would be completely out of the loop.
dspellmanok I scratched the former part of my comment, as obviously I was incorrect and illiterate. I still stand by the latter part of my comment.
Quote by Diatribes
dspellmanok I scratched the former part of my comment, as obviously I was incorrect and illiterate.

I ain't never dun no spilin' ner grammatomical errurs heretafur as I noes. Utherwize I wud be illkeerect and unlitterut, two.