June 18, 2018
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Gibson says Bangor guitar maker violated its trademarks

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff
Updated:

One of the largest guitar makers in the world has sent a cease and desist letter to a Bangor luthier, claiming that two of his models are in violation of its trademarks.

Gibson Brands, Inc. late last year demanded Dallas Seger, owner and operator of the Bangor-based Seger Guitars, to stop making two of his models — the YG and the V — claiming they violate the trademarks of two of their models: the SG body, and the Flying V body and headstock.

“They asked me not only to stop making them, but to pay them a settlement on the ones I’ve already made and sold,” said Seger, 37, who has been making guitars for nearly 20 years.

Bates & Bates, the legal firm retained by Gibson to represent it in its various trademark lawsuits, did not respond to a request for comment.

Seger complied with one of Gibson’s requests, and in December removed his V model from his online store, he said. But he contends that his other model, the YG, is entirely his own design and said he will continue making and selling it.

“The YG model is entirely my own. I’ve been making it for years,” said Seger.

[Michael Hallahan] Dallas Seger’s YG guitar model, which Gibson claims is a trademark violation of their SG model.

Seger, who is also a guitar technician at Northern Kingdom Music in Bangor, makes a limited number of guitars per year, declining to name an exact number of how many he’d made or sold over the years. He takes custom orders and then spends six months crafting each one by hand, carving them out of solid wood and building them to the client’s exact specifications.

Gibson has sent similar letters to a number of guitar makers of various sizes over the years, from boutique companies like Seger’s to larger makers like U.K.-based John Henry Skewes, which took Gibson to court and had an $8 million lawsuit dismissed in Oct. 2016. Most recently, in Dec. 2017 Gibson sued vinyl toy maker FUNKO Pop over usage of alleged likenesses of its guitars in figurines of members of Metallica, KISS and Guns n’ Roses, claiming it did not have permission to use the designs.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Gibson Brands has had a financially tumultuous past year, according to the Nashville Post. With a recent $16.6 million payment on a $375 million loan backed by the company’s own assets, it has managed to stay ahead of a heavy debt burden. But it must refinance that loan by July 23. If it doesn’t, another $145 million bank loan will come due, putting the company’s future in question.

It currently is trying to refinance its debt into a $550 million loan. If it can’t, debtors could come calling. In that case, the company could try to negotiate an exchange of its debt, give up some equity to debtors or potentially declare bankruptcy.

BDN writer Lori Valigra contributed reporting.

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