What does the term "lawsuit guitar" really mean?

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What does the term "lawsuit guitar" really mean?

Post by Barry on Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:37 pm

If you've been searching around for Westones and other guitars of the same era, you've no doubt come across the term "Lawsuit guitar". Our pal over at our sister site, The Guitar Gallery, got so fed up seeing the term that he wrote what I think is about the most succinct description of what it is...and isn't.

Since the claims do get confusing or even down right misleading at times in online ads I thought the readers of this forum might find it helpful to reproduce it here.
A note about the "Lawsuit"

It is a common misconception that the famous Gibson/Norlin lawsuit was filed against a number of Japanese companies. It is also commonly said it was over the exact copying of American designs. Neither is true.

The lawsuit was filed by Norlin (Gibson's parent company) against Elger/Hoshino (Ibanez's American division) over the use of the "open book" headstock design which Norlin claimed as a Gibson Trademark. It was not over the exact copying of body dimensions or construction. These guitars were metric!

Don't believe me? Just try putting your Gibson stop-tail posts in one of those "exact" copies! When's the last time you saw a bolt-neck genuine LP Custom? The lawsuit was not "won" by Norlin, but settled out of court. Most of the Japanese companies, as a precautionary move, turned away from those copies but many still offered their "version" of the classic American designs with at least minor departures in design and appearance.

Often I see the term "lawsuit" tossed around rather freely. Most often it is either hype to raise the price of the copy someone trying to sell, or they simply don't know what the "lawsuit" was all about. Too often it really isn't a lawsuit model at all. DON'T FALL VICTIM TO THE HYPE! I see a lot of this in on-line auctions and on-line guitar dealers advertisements.

I have seen guitars go for much more than they are actually worth simply because the purchaser has fallen for the hype or actually didn't know what constitutes a "lawsuit" model. Remember, the best customer is a well informed customer.

Lawsuit era has unfortunately become an amateur seller's marketing term, along with vintage. Which really burns my toast since I have 3 "Vintage" brand guitars! Rolling Eyes

Something to keep in mind if you're considering a purchase which seems hyped along these lines.

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