Dean found in civil contempt for failing to comply with Gibson trademark ruling

Dean and Gibson headstock
(Image credit: Future)

Dean Guitars owner Armadillo has been found to be in civil contempt after its failure to comply with a trademark ruling issued in the wake of its recent legal battle with Gibson.

The ruling required Dean to end producing and advertising several of its guitars that were found to infringe on Gibson’s trademarks. Last May, a civil court found Dean guilty of infringing on Gibson’s Flying V, Explorer, ES and SG body shapes trademarks, as well as the Dove Wing headstock design.

Following the ruling, Dean was then ordered to stop producing V, Z and Gran Sport electric guitars, but a few months later Gibson returned with a claim that Dean was in civil contempt for continuing to advertise its V and Z Series guitars.

Initially, Gibson’s claims were thrown out by judge Amos L Mazzant, who said that “the parties informed the Court that they had resolved almost all the issues raised in Gibson’s contempt motions”, adding, “any new arguments that were raised in the pending motion were resolved by the parties”.

However, as reported by Guitar, Mazzant has now agreed with Gibson’s latest complaint regarding Dean's advertising practices, ruling that “Armadillo is in civil contempt for listing the Dean V and Z guitars for sale on its website and Gibson should be awarded compensatory damages”.

In response to the complaint, Armadillo referenced the turbulent shift in brand leadership – in which then-CEO Evan Robinson was sued for alleged embezzlement – that occurred at the same time of the initial ruling, suggesting this had made it difficult to remove guitars from its website and end advertising.

Dean Guitars

(Image credit: Future)

This, however, was not accepted as a defence. As Mazzant ruled, “Armadillo’s good faith is not a defence for its failure to comply.”

At the time of the original report pertaining to Gibson’s claims of Dean being in civil contempt, no court intervention was required, as any related issues had been satisfactorily resolved by the two parties.

Despite this ruling, the latest development in the ongoing legal battle between the two guitar brands isn’t a resounding victory for Gibson, which initially sought both “coercive and compensatory” sanctions against Dean’s parent company.

In practice, these translate to fines that prompt Armadillo to comply with the ruling, and fines that compensate for Gibson’s losses as they relate to the company’s non-compliance, respectively.

The court has not sanctioned any coercive sanctions as “there is no dispute that Armadillo has changed its problematic conduct after the filing of Gibson’s motion”. As per Mazzant’s ruling, “Coercive sanctions would not necessarily serve their intended purpose in this case, and the Court will not impose them.”

Gibson reportedly must now show the court the financial impact of Armadillo’s non-compliance.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.