PureSalem VS. Gibson

PureSalem Guitars was launched in 2013. It is a family run affair and will always be a work in progress. We are a small business with a giant heart and love for music. The American dream is alive and well and PureSalem is the perfect example of that.  I walked away from a twenty one year career to follow my dream and embark on this crazy adventure. My only regret is I wish I would have done it sooner! Along the way many friendships have been made and lesson learned.  Recently, the 800 pound gorilla in the room Gibson Guitars has taken notice of us. Their lawyers felt the need to send us a Cease & Desist order ( C & D ) regarding our CARDINAL model.  They claim that our Cardinal model is a copy of their Firebird model.  I can tell you right now it is not, it is a completely different guitar as you will read below. PureSalem is well aware of Gibson’s business practices so this was taken all in stride. We obtained legal council to respond to their claims. Our letter was met with negative response. We submit that there is simply no credible argument that consumers will be confused between a PureSalem and a Gibson.  No infringement action could be based on likelihood of consumer confusion. Guitar consumers at this level, probably at any level, know that guitar manufacturers typically brand their guitars on the headstocks – again greatly attenuating any potential confusion. There are a myriad of manufacturers using this design or similar variants in the industry and there are no instances of confusion that have come to our’ attention. Our Cardinal model is a complexity different body shape than the Firebird or Revers Firebird. If  both models were “Mirrored or sandwiched” together they would not line up or match in any way.

It's reassuring to know that Gibson's legal staff is held to the highest ethical standards.While we continued to patiently await Gibson’s response, their legal team contact FACEBOOK and advised them that we were in violation of trademarks but extend the models to include our LA FLACA and ELEVATION.  FACEBOOK removed multiple images without notice. Facebook did however provide us with the opportunity to contest the image takedowns by providing a link where we can express our grievance.  We have yet to hear back from Facebook.  So now Gibson is considering our La Flaca model a SG copy and our Elevation is a 335 copy.  For us, this is where Gibson crossed the line. This is where their bully tactics reared their ugly head.  Our La Flaca is not even close to being an SG copy.  While there is a long history of non-Gibson manufactured guitars using the SG design or slight variants dating back decades and continuing ( Wylde Audio, Fret King, ESP & others ) our La Flaca  stands on its own merits. Our Elevation model is a double cutaway and is no different in shape than guitars being manufactured by Washburn, Collings, D’angelico. Ibanez and many others. This body shape has been manufactured for decades by a multitude on non-Gibson manufacturers. Guitar consumers are well aware that it is not just Gibson that makes guitars with this body shape.

So … Gibson has sent us a C & D and contacted Facebook in what we consider to be very bad faith.  What do they do next? They contact our web hosting company and advise them the same.

We were instructed to remove all the images that they claimed were in violation. We did comply and thats why our three models were not up on the site for a short period. We were advised that we could counter claim and that Gibson would then have 10 business days to respond with a court order if the models were to be kept off the site. Gibson did not respond to our counter claim and now our models are back up on our website.

This is the issue. This is why we have decide to go public. Gibson guitars likes to cherry pick who they go after.  They skirt the permitter of what is legally ethical.  They are bullies and employ scare tactics on smaller companies.  Its a shame that what was in our opinion a treasured and cherished institution has lowered itself to such disgusting levels. PureSalem guitars is just the newest flavor of the month for Gibson. We are surly not the first to have to be forced to play this silly game and sadly we will not be the last.


Onto the Cardinal differences … The Cardinal dimensions are different from the Gibson design – the Cardinal is more like a non-reverse Firebird or Jazzmaster shape, but is also distinguishable from those shapes  The overall shape is different with the upper bout at a sharper angle than a Gibson, and the front and back angles of Cardinal are steeper and match.  The neck of the Cardinal is bolt on. The headstock design is significantly different and conspicuously displays the PS brand. The truss rod cover is different.  The placement of the output jack and controls are different.  The tone and volume knobs are different.  The PS Cardinal is a one piece slab body. The strap buttons are placed differently so the guitar balances differently.  The pickguard is a different shape and is devoid of graphics. The pickup selector switch is in a different location on the PS Cardinal.  The PS uses proprietary pickups.  The PS uses a straight 6 classic inline tuner design. The PS headstock has the PS logo on it.

Finally, it is important to note the court’s reasoning in Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars LP where the court stated that there was no likelihood of confusion at the point of sale and that was dispositive of the entire case. The court also noted “[a]s always, our concern was with ‘whether the defendant’s use of the disputed mark is likely to cause confusion among consumers regarding the origin of the goods offered by the parties.’” “[A] claim of trademark infringement requires a showing that that the defendant’s actual practice is likely to produce confusion in the minds of consumers about the origin of the goods or services in question.”   Id. and see IP Permanent Make-Up v. Lasting Impression I, Inc. As noted above, there is no likelihood of confusion of ANY kind here, and based on the quality of PS guitars and knowledgeable consumers, there is no tarnishment or dilution.

I would like to thank everyone for the kind words of support and encouragement. It has really uplifted us and shown us what an amazing community we are a part of. I wish you all the best!!!

Rick Sell
PureSalem Guitars