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May 14, 2012
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Edit: There was a lawsuit in 1982 in the UK between Fender and Tokai through their proxies. As a result of that lawsuit, Tokai had to change its logo which contained the word "Strat". It transitioned immediately to a block logo in the UK and to a script logo in much of the rest of the world. By mid 1983 guitars sold in the UK also featured the script logo. The block logo and the script logo turn out to be older logos that were resurrected.

Were there ever any actually legal actions by Gibson or Fender against Tokai in the late 70s/early 80s?

By Gibson possibly around the "Les Paul" name used in association with Tokai guitars, or by Fender a few years later re: use of the term "Strat", the headstock shape, the Spaghetti logo, or anything else?

I have read various things on here, but have not seen any documents along these lines.

Wondering what actually happened that led to obvious changes in the Les Paul/Les Paul Reborn/Love Rock name and the change in the Springy/Goldstar logo and headstock?
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I know. I used to collect Ibanez guitars. I’m familiar with the use of the term to sell guitars.

Nevertheless, it was mentioned in another thread that legal action from Gibson and Fender contributed to Tokais bankruptcy and reorganization.

Even their financial troubles in the mid 80s are mysterious.

I’m hoping someone pops up with a document, otherwise I have to question what actually happened.

But something probably happened because it probably cost the company a lot in sales making the switches.

Not actual documentation but should be traceable.
Thanks. Yep that’s the Ibanez stuff I’ve heard about for years.

I was hoping to find information specifically about Tokai and the changes in model names, headstock shape of the Springys, and the spaghetti logo.

What I have to assume is that the legal action if it existed was at most a threat drawn up by lawyers that was not carried out because Tokai most likely voluntarily made changes in response.

Would love it if someone has any documentation of those potential communications. 8)
That's my understanding too. Threats followed by modification to allow continued exports. I would of thought that documentation if any, will be in Tokai offices but was more likely to be verbal.
marcusnieman said:

Thanks. Again, that is the Ibanez stuff.

You wouldn't happen to know of any such document directed at Tokai would you?
And I found an interesting discussion on The Gear Page that kind of nails it.


"Guys - can we get the facts straight for once?!

Gibson didn't sue the Japanese manufacturers!!!

Gibson's parent company at the time (Norlin) sued Elger, which was the USA (PA) based distribution company for Ibanez instruments in the US. If anybody has actually taken the time to read the documents, the crux of the case was about Ibanez/Hoshino using Gibson's trademarked "open book" headstock. The case was brought in 1977, oddly enough, about a year or so after Ibanez stopped using that headstock shape on models destined for the US market.

The reason that companies like Tokai and Greco can get away with selling pretty close Gibson copies is that they don't distribute them in the USA, and a company like Gibson has a tougher time enforcing their rights abroad.

Fender never sued any of those companies, instead partnering with a number of Jpns manufacturers and licensing their designs out as Fender Japan. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, or something like that.

The current wave of Chinese counterfeits differ in that they actually bear "Gibson" logos and have "Made In USA" and serial numbers on the back. Those aren't legal copies, and typically enter this country through the gray market."


"AFAIK there were only threats of a lawsuit against Tokai, nothing was ever filed, and anyway any suit could only have been filed in the US against the US distributor, as the Gibson and Fender rights over the shape of their headstocks is USA only, not world wide.

Gibson brought a real lawsuit against PRS which settled the body shape issue of the LP once and for all - Gibson do not own it, it's been out there too long unprotected so it's free for everyone to copy. It will be the same deal for the Fender body shapes, but I reckon the Strat pickguard might have a slim chance.

It's a little bit of a shame for Gibson and Fender, but when you think about it, how bad would it be if two companies owned virtually all the potential electric guitar body shapes? There would be a whole lot less alternative guitars around for people to choose from.

And anyway those shapes probably are an evolution of the acoustic guitar shape, and you didn't see some old Spanish (or other) company looking to own that way back when."


"Worth noting that Gibson sued ONE Japanese manufacturer (actually their distributor Elger) over headstock shape, but did not WIN that lawsuit. It was settled out of court, and there was no precedent established. Ibanez had already changed their headstock a couple of years before, but Gibson's lawyers seem not to have noticed. In 2000, they took Fernandes to court in Tokyo for copying Gibson designs but did NOT prevail in that case, and Gibson lost a suit against PRS in 2005 as well. The headstock shape is NOT sacrosanct, but since there's no precedent established that specifically allows use of the headstock shape, small manufacturers avoid the lawyering-up expense by modifying it slightly. Larger manufacturers that have the coin to fight Gibson in court do whatever they like."
About Gibson did sue in Japan Court Fernandes early 2000s and lost, we talked about it at the time in this forum.

About Lawsuit I agree I got tired reading advert sales , usually low end and/or obscure brands, in order to justify an high asked price.
So this boils down to changing the Fender style headstock and spaghetti logo out of fear of potential action in markets where Fender held some sway legally, assuming Tokai wanted access to those markets.

What I get confused over is that Tokais are not sold in the US. I don’t think they ever were. Every one I’ve bought here in the US was imported.

So why the change?

Also, another member mentioned that the Fender type headstock and spaghetti logo persisted in Europe beyond 1983/84.

Still a head scratcher for me.

Maybe ultimately it was about getting the contract with Fender?
mdvineng said:

Not actual documentation but should be traceable.

Good info & thanks for the link. 8)

I think the comment by Bill Menting states it best: "The article has its moments with a few things wrong, but the only "true" lawsuit{and we usually use "copy era"} guitars, are Ibanez guitars with Gibson open book headstocks from 70-about 76. Hoshino/Elger was the only company involved in litigation with Norlin{Gibsons parent company}."

So, yes; the term 'lawsuit' when used in reference to MIJ guitars has been over used to the proportion of likely 99.9999% incorrectly.
And yes, I'm still puking whenever someone abuses the term. :lol:
Lol. I feel the same. My focus was why did Tokai make changes to their models and subsequently lose sales (I would assume)? Seems unforced.

Now I’m thinking it was to eventually land a contract with Fender and get access to the bigger market in the US? Because Tokai was never selling their guitars here in the US, which they were interested in doing at the time I believe, until later when they said Fender on the headstock.

So a potential power play by Fender which probably came up during the initial negotiations around 1981/82 (?) when Fender eventually went with Fujigen. Would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall.

From what I’ve gathered on line, Fender was looking to supplement its production while it retooled. Wondering if the negotiations involved the length of the commitment?

We may never know the truth.
One other possibility for the change in headstock shape and script is that someone thought those were improvements. We are talking about the Talbo era, so who knows?
Sigmania said:
One other possibility for the change in headstock shape and script is that someone thought those were improvements. We are talking about the Talbo era, so who knows?

Too much green tea or they felt it was time to stand on their own feet.
Yep. All possible and things I hadn’t considered. Interesting. Thanks.
Interesting. Do you know if any were actually sold here?
In the US?

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