The Nashville City Paper Online reports on a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals trade mark case. Gibson Guitar Corp has been making the Les Paul Single Cutaway model guitar since 1952. PRS began making its Singlecut guitar in 2000. Both guitars have cutaway areas between the neck and the lower part of the body to allow players to access the higher frets. Gibson brought an action for trade mark infringement, which was allowed by the District Court. However, the Sixth Circuit has overturned the lower court’s decision, arguing that any confusion between the two instruments would be dispelled by further examination on the part of consumers. According to Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore
standing on the far side of the room in a guitar store to believe they see
Gibson guitars and walk over to examine what they soon realize are PRS
guitars…We decline to adopt such a broad reading … of doctrine. Many, if not
most consumer products will tend to appear like their competitors at a
This sounds to the IPKat rather like at least a partial rejection of the “initial interest confusion” doctrine where the parties involved are trading in goods on the “real” market, rather than in cyberspace.
(N.B. The Gibson is on the left, the PRS model is on the right).