20 October 2015Trademarks

Fender rival faces music in guitar trademark lawsuit

Guitar maker Fender Musical Instruments has alleged that a US rival is selling infringing guitars containing its “distinctive” headstock design.

In a complaint filed at the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Fender claimed that South Carolina-based Haywire Custom Guitars is liable for counterfeiting, trademark infringement and unfair competition.

At the centre of the dispute are custom guitars produced by Haywire, which is owned Richard Mariner. According to Fender, Mariner sold guitars using the “distinctive” headstock design without its permission.

The headstock design is a guitar that is straight on the left hand side, has curves around the top, and contains two bumps on the right hand side.

Fender owns three registered US trademarks for the headstock design, registered between 1951 and 1955.

Furthermore, Fender claimed Haywire has used the terms ‘Stratocaster’ and ‘Telecaster’ to describe its guitars. Fender also owns registered trademarks for both terms.

Clarence “Leo” Fender established his guitar business in 1946.

In 1954, Fender began selling the Fender Stratocaster, which was famously used by musicians such as Buddy Holly, John Lennon, George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix.

In its complaint, Fender said: “Essentially unchanged since its 1954 debut, the Stratocaster guitar is quite simply the most popular and influential electric guitar ever made, and players at all levels and in all genres continue to rely on its sound, playability, and versatility to this day.”

In August 2012, Fender sent a cease-and-desist letter to Haywire asking it to refrain from selling guitars using the headstock design. Haywire responded stating that it would immediately stop selling the guitars.

According to the court document, filed on October 9, Haywire has not complied with the request.

“The likelihood of confusion, mistake, and deception engendered by Mariner’s misappropriation and imitation of the Fender marks is causing irreparable harm to the goodwill symbolised by the Fender marks and the reputation for quality that they embody,” Fender added.

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at

More on this story

21 October 2015   A US-based guitar maker has branded Fender Musical Instruments’s trademark lawsuit an example of “corporate greed” and an attempt to “take out small businesses in the US”.