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Fender’s trademark applications denied

Published: Tue March 31, 2009  News Feed

US Patent and Trademark Office concludes that source of body shapes cannot be identified

Fender guitar...obviously? Or Not?

A Fender guitar, obviously. Or not?


MMR Magazine has reported that FMIC’s US trademark applications concerning its Stratocaster, Telecaster and Precision guitar body shapes have been rejected. Similar applications have previously been rejected, both in the UK and the rest of Europe.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office reached a decision on March 25th, regarding the appeal, which saw the famed guitar manufacturer take on Stuart Spector Designs, US Music Corporation, ESP Guitars, Sadowsky Guitars, Lakland Musical Instruments, Peavey Electronics, Warmoth Guitar Products, Schecter Guitar Research, Michael Tobias and others.

“Fender refers to the ‘iconic’ status of these [instrument] outlines in American popular culture,” noted the Board, “however, we must resolve a narrow issue: Do consumers associate these two-dimensional outlines, depicted in the drawings, as indicators of source?”

The litigation has lasted five years and included over twenty thousand pages of evidence demonstrating countless companies who have manufactured, marketed and sold guitars that use the body shapes that Fender sought to trademark.

“The applicant has not established acquired distinctiveness such that these two-dimensional outlines of guitar bodies, standing alone, serve to indicate source,” the TTAB concluded. "The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that these configurations are so common in the industry that they cannot identify source. In fact, in the case of the [Stratocaster] body outline, this configuration is so common that it is depicted as a generic electric guitar in a dictionary.”

The entire decision can be read here.

View all Fender products at Dolphin!

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