Trademark Law

Guitar-Wielding Lawyer Rocks Fender

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A New Jersey lawyer, who by day practices entertainment law and by night plays guitar and tours the country with one of his two rock bands, has helped win a key trademark case over Fender Musical Instruments.

The case began when lawyer Ron Bienstock was doing due diligence for a client in 2003 and noticed Fender had applied to own the trademark on a two-dimensional outline of three arguably common guitar body shapes, the North Jersey Record reports.

Ultimately Bienstock and his Hackensack firm, Bienstock & Michael, represented 18 manufacturers and retailers in opposition to Fender’s application.

The case stretched on for six years, but in late March, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled against Fender, determining that the shapes that the guitar giant attempted to register were generic and open to use by all guitar and bass manufacturers.

The trademark body noted specifically that Fender’s outline of the Stratocaster “is so common that it is depicted as a generic electric guitar … for the word ‘guitar’ ” in the 1987 edition of Random House Dictionary of the English Language, the Record reports.

Fender is considering an appeal. Read the 75-page opinion here (PDF).

Also see:

Music Esq. (PDF of firm release): “Bienstock & Michael, P.C. Wins Landmark Trademark Ruling Against Fender Musical Instruments Corporation”

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