Sunday, March 28, 2010

Brands with no Vision: Gibson Edition

Last year I taught a writing class organized around the theme of Intellectual Property. In the course of discussion we got on to the topic of counterfeiting and of counterfeit guitars in particular.

Okay, I admit it, they were talking about counterfeit designer purses and I shifted the topic onto guitars. My bad.

Anyway, they got me googling the topic and poking through Chinese knockoffs on dodgy auction sites. But one of the other things that popped up out of that was Gibson's lawsuit against Activision claiming that Activision had infringed upon Gibson's patent for 'simulated musical performance using an instrument'. This is the same Gibson that made a bit of coin off the licensing for the SG, Les Paul, and Explorer shaped controllers that shipped with Guitar Hero games and that gets a shitload of free advertising with all the damn characters using so many Gibson designs on screen.

Any responsible and sane company would look at this as a good thing. Twenty years ago -- no money coming in from video game licensing. Today -- money coming in without the company having to hire a single factory worker or even design a new guitar. All the work was done years back by Les Paul and Ted McCarty. Oh, and Angus and Slash and James Hetfield and Michael Schenker. Gibson corporate didn't have to do a damn thing except hold their hands out for the bags of free money and thank their lucky stars that they have been able to live off of their laurels for the last 30 years while people like Ken Parker and Ned Steinberger were bothering to think about what might be next.

If I were a small guitar company looking to break through I'd seriously be on the phone with Activision begging them to use my guitars likenesses and labels on every damn product they could push for free so long as I could do the same and use the games to market the hell out of my guitars rather than being a greedy, ungrateful wretch like Gibson and grasping for more. This is doubly true when the company hasn't had a successful new idea since before punk. That type of stupid should be criminalized.

Thank the gods they lost the lawsuit.

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