Gibson Brands Inc. sued Funko on Thursday in California federal court

Funko Dolls Can’t Rock Out With Tiny Les Pauls, Gibson Says

Law360, New York (December 15, 2017, 4:14 PM EST) — Gibson Brands Inc. sued Funko on Thursday in California federal court, arguing that it owns the trademark for the Les Paul guitar, including the use of its likeness in toys, and that the pop culture toy company didn’t seek permission for its wildly popular vinyl figures to hold Gibson-design guitars.

The guitar maker accused Funko of making “repeated” unauthorized use of its trademarks for various components of the guitars in Funko’s toys, which are based on pop culture figures. Gibson attached as an exhibit screenshots of vinyl figures and plush toys from the rock bands Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Kiss and the horror video game “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” which were shown to be available for sale on the Funko website and online retailer Amazon.

Gibson claimed it had sent a cease and desist letter to Funko in October, identifying the infringing products and offering to retroactively license its trademarks to the toy company. However, after communications between parties were unsuccessful, Gibson filed the instant suit, alleging that Funko continues to “deliberately and intentionally” use Gibson’s trademarks without its consent.

“The misuse of the Gibson trademarks by Funko was intended to cause, has caused, and is likely to continue to cause, consumer confusion, mistake or deception including the misleading of consumers into mistakenly believing that the defendant’s unauthorized products are made directly by Gibson pursuant to Gibson’s strict quality control standards or Gibson has authorized or licensed the use by Funko of the Gibson trademarks for those products,” the complaint said.

Gibson told the court that it owned additional trademarks for other famous electric guitars — including the Flying V, Explorer and Kramer — which it alleged Funko had also knowingly used in its toys and advertisements to imply a false connection to the guitar maker.

“Despite its constructive and actual knowledge of the infringement of the Gibson trademarks by defendant’s unauthorized products, Funko has continued to provide defendant’s unauthorized products to distributors whom then sell defendant’s unauthorized products to the end consumer,” lawyers for Gibson wrote.

Gibson’s trademarks for the guitars were all registered in the U.S. for stringed instruments, one for almost 30 years, the company said, adding that it had spent millions promoting its “distinctive designs” for more than 50 years. Gibson also said those same applications were pending for toy figures and toy model guitars.

The complaint also lists 10 unidentified defendants that Gibson claims were in some manner responsible for the alleged damages.

The guitar maker is seeking injunctive and monetary relief under the Lanham Act and California law, and demanded in the complaint a jury trial on all issues.

Representatives and counsel for Gibson did not immediately respond to requests for comments Friday. Representatives for Funko also did not respond.

Gibson is represented by Andrea E. Bates and Kurt W. Schuettinger of Bates & Bates LLC.

Counsel information for Funko was not immediately known Friday.

The case is Gibson Brands Inc. v. Funko LLC et al., case number 5:17-cv-02494, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

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