…[P]rivately held Fender Musical Instruments, which owns the name to history’s most famous electric guitar–the Stratocaster–wants that to stop. Fifty years after the first Strat was sold, the company is claiming that the guitar’s shape, as well as that of several other models, belongs to Fender. That’s not going over well with its competitors. …
The problem is, dozens of other companies have sold guitars with those shapes too–a knockoff market developed in the mid-’70s. Fellow industry titan Gibson Guitar has indicated it may oppose Fender’s application. Some smaller guitar makers, which have built reputations and businesses on those shapes, worry they could be put out of business if Fender gets its way.
“It’s like [trying to trademark] cars with four wheels, or all tennis rackets that are round,” says Ronald Bienstock, a lawyer representing 18 guitar companies, big and small, that are opposing Fender’s application.
I don’t know if Fender even can suceed at this. The body style has hardly been unique to Fender for several decades now. Much like Xerox found out, if the reserved name falls into common use, rights to that name cannot be recovered. I defintely know that if Fender were to win, it would be rather bad thing for both the industry and for most musicians.