February 16, 2018

How We Draft and Enforce Non-Traditional Trademarks for America’s No. 1 Acoustic Guitar-Maker

At Patterson + Sheridan, our trademark services go above and beyond words. We have deep experience drafting and enforcing non-traditional trademarks that can protect a product’s shape, pattern or color.

You may not even realize that your consumer product has unique attributes that can be protected by trademark. We help clients identify unconventional characteristics that set their designs apart and that deserve to be protected.

Trusted by one the world’s most renowned guitar manufacturers

Taylor Guitars, the number-one manufacturer of acoustic guitars in the United States, has trusted us with protecting their iconic designs for years.

You know a Taylor guitar when you see one: Its headstock, bridge and pickguard each have very unique shapes. Most guitarists don’t even have to see the logo to know it’s a Taylor — these elements are a giveaway even from a distance. That’s what makes those shapes trademark-worthy.

Here’s the problem: Low-end manufacturers, mostly in China, often try to capitalize on popular products and copy their shapes. That’s exactly what we’ve seen happen with Taylor’s designs.

However, it’s difficult to use the courts as leverage against these foreign manufacturers because they can’t be sued unless they are caught trying to sell the product in the United States.

Proactive protection from trade shows to lawsuits

Our team doesn’t just sit in our office and cross our fingers. We get out of the office to educate clients on what they can do and actively protect their products in important locations where they do business.

For example, we regularly attend the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show to enforce Taylor’s marks. This event draws nearly 100,000 attendees each year and is described as “the world’s largest trade-only event for the music products industry.”

When we discover a counterfeit product at a tradeshow like this, we take a phased approach of sending warning letters (in English and Chinese) and sending agents to follow up with infringers. If they don’t heed those warnings, our team takes legal action.

We recently settled a lawsuit with a company that repeatedly sold infringing guitars at the NAMM Show, but that is just one among many. Our team continually attends trade shows from Germany to Shanghai to proactively protect our clients against counterfeiters.

Related Team:

W. Bruce Patterson

Partner, Practice Head