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Jun 22, 2021 - 5:30:31 AM
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13700 posts since 6/29/2005

85 fake  guitars were seized at the border by customs agents. The collection included 72 Gibsons, but also models from C.F. Martin, Fender, Kramer and Taylor. Also included were 13 acoustic guitars.  
The guitars were slated to be shipped to addresses in 31 states, including 10 in California and four in Virginia.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2021/06/21/these-guitars-struck-wrong-note-with-us-customs-border-protection-officers/

It's not clear in the article, but apparently the problem was not that the guitars themselves were fake, but that they had fake signatures of various famous people on them.

Makes you wonder about some of the stuff on eBay.

The moral of the story (I guess) is If you make a fake Gibson Mastertone, or put a Gibson logo on a banjo you made, that's OK— just don't put a fake Earl Scruggs signature on it(?)

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 06/22/2021 05:43:29

Jun 22, 2021 - 5:49:40 AM
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1420 posts since 5/19/2018
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I always wonder about some of the stuff on eBay.

Imagine...people making fake things to fool people. Now that makes one wonder.

There are entire factories overseas making counterfeit everything, and some of the counterfeits are as good as the originals.

As always: Caveat Emptor

Jun 22, 2021 - 6:58:15 AM

Alex Z

USA

4376 posts since 12/7/2006

So the CBP now decides what violates trademark laws in the U.S.?  Not a court?

Have 'em check out that 2004 Gibson Granada with the replaced neck, which would be worth $200,000 if it were "real," but is worth only about $3,500.  Or the 1960 plectrum remade to look like an RB-4.  

Jun 22, 2021 - 7:44:49 AM
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6295 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

So the CBP now decides what violates trademark laws in the U.S.?  Not a court?

Have 'em check out that 2004 Gibson Granada with the replaced neck, which would be worth $200,000 if it were "real," but is worth only about $3,500.  Or the 1960 plectrum remade to look like an RB-4.  


bUt ThOSe arE COnvErsIoNs.

Jun 22, 2021 - 8:26:55 AM

DRH

USA

643 posts since 5/29/2018

I saw a video about a year ago of a fake Les Paul being disassembled. The instrument had what appeared to be genuine Epiphone parts. The technician came to the conclusion that this Chibson was probably made in the Epiphone factory and left through the back door.

SE Asia has a long history of making fake products in the same factories along side genuine products. The only thing fake about some of them is that they are being sold outside legitimate channels. If you bought a real Martin or Les Paul there is a good chance that somebody has one just like it with the same serial number.

Even Amazon got caught selling fake Shure SM57/58 microphones about two years ago. I doubt they knew what they were selling. I also doubt they cared until the returns started showing up from angry customers.

Jun 22, 2021 - 8:55:02 AM

DRH

USA

643 posts since 5/29/2018

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

So the CBP now decides what violates trademark laws in the U.S.?  Not a court?


CBP may be acting on a judicial reading that says an OM-28-EC coming from China with Eric Clapton's signature on the label is probably a fake.  A new Mastertone with Earl's signature might also be a hint something is wrong.

Jun 22, 2021 - 9:29:05 AM

6169 posts since 10/13/2007

Great post Ken,
thanks,
ken (also)

Jun 22, 2021 - 10:02:54 AM

Alex Z

USA

4376 posts since 12/7/2006

I'm not doubting that the instruments have not been made by the companies on the peghead.   Only thinking that the CBP should be operating under "probable cause" of violation of U.S. law, and that the owner of the converted "Gibson RB-4" with the new neck, rim, tone ring, flange, tailpiece, tuners, bridge, and some of the bracket hooks deserves a day in court, with Gibson as the aggrieved party on the other side.  smiley  

Do we want a CBP agent stationed at the Ryman, checking the authenticity of banjos and guitars?

IT'S MY RIGHT!  I HAVE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO A "CONVERTED" GIBSON BANJO!  (as long as it has at least one Gibson partsmiley

Edited by - Alex Z on 06/22/2021 10:03:27

Jun 22, 2021 - 10:13:08 AM
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Players Union Member

RioStat

USA

5515 posts since 10/12/2009

....probably better guitars than the crap Gibson's been building the past few years......

Jun 22, 2021 - 10:33:50 AM

Ivor

England

75 posts since 11/18/2020

I did flag up the counterfeit problem here in the UK and some big brand names are being faked. Some of them are almost indistinguishable from the real thing, unless you really know what you are looking at.

Trading Standards are protecting people’s brands here and have almost limitless powers to seize goods identified as fake.

Jun 22, 2021 - 11:15:30 AM
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8722 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

I'm not doubting that the instruments have not been made by the companies on the peghead.   Only thinking that the CBP should be operating under "probable cause" of violation of U.S. law, and that the owner of the converted "Gibson RB-4" with the new neck, rim, tone ring, flange, tailpiece, tuners, bridge, and some of the bracket hooks deserves a day in court, with Gibson as the aggrieved party on the other side.  smiley  

Do we want a CBP agent stationed at the Ryman, checking the authenticity of banjos and guitars?

IT'S MY RIGHT!  I HAVE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO A "CONVERTED" GIBSON BANJO!  (as long as it has at least one Gibson partsmiley


It's actually likely that the CBP is acting under "probably cause." I think that a brand new instrument with a dead banjo player's autograph would be a dead giveaway that the thing's a fake.  If something comes along that is blatantly obvious, I'd say "yes, we do want that Ryman agent checking the authenticity. 

There are more than enough questionable altered Gibsons and Martins being palmed off as genuine being thrown together in our own country, and I sure don't wish to see even more fakes coming in from somewhere else.

Jun 22, 2021 - 12:20:54 PM
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DRH

USA

643 posts since 5/29/2018

quote:
Originally posted by RioStat

....probably better guitars than the crap Gibson's been building the past few years......


The counterfeiters are at least making an effort to build necks that break at the nut like real Gibsons/Epiphones. 

The legitimate semi-clones (ESP, etc.) use built-up necks with a dart at the neck-to-headstock joint.  It's as if they have no regard for tradition.

Jun 22, 2021 - 1:01:14 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24835 posts since 6/25/2005

The seizure was based on a trademark violation, which suggests the guitars themselves were fake.

Jun 22, 2021 - 1:34:47 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4376 posts since 12/7/2006

"Papers, Mr. Scaggs.  You have any papers for that mandolin?  I want to see your papers.  You too, Mr. Pikelny.  Put the case down slowly and step over here."

smiley

Edited by - Alex Z on 06/22/2021 13:35:12

Jun 22, 2021 - 1:37:47 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4376 posts since 12/7/2006

"Your honor, I thought he was reaching for something.  I didn't know it was a Blue Chip JD thumbpick."

smiley

Jun 22, 2021 - 1:48:42 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4376 posts since 12/7/2006

True story.  Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Two CBP agents go into a restaurant and order lunch.  No search warrant.  They inquire about an employee.  He's not working today.   They have lunch.  Other agents in bullet proof vests and automatic weapons surround the back entrance.  Kitchen worker comes out the back to empty the trash into a dumpster.  He is arrested and carted off.  An American citizen, but he looks Hispanic.  

These are the guys to be trusted with determining whether or not that RB-4 is authentic?  smiley

"Your honor, based on the mill marks on the underside of the flange, we had probable cause to think that the banjo was not authentic.  Uhhh, no sir, we didn't actually take it out of the case."

Jun 22, 2021 - 1:51:32 PM

11868 posts since 6/2/2008
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quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

I'm not doubting that the instruments have not been made by the companies on the peghead.   Only thinking that the CBP should be operating under "probable cause" of violation of U.S. law . . .


What makes you think they weren't acting under probable cause or -- to address your previous question -- that a court wasn't involved at least in issuing a warrant for the seizure?

As the linked article says:

Experts at the agency’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise worked with trademark holders to determine that the guitars violated trademark protections. Officers completed the seizure on June 9.

Sounds like probable cause to me.

But the bigger issue, as the article says, is that the fake autographs inflated the guitars' collectible values. Sounds like the shipper and importer are involved in an international conspiracy to defraud collectors in the U.S.

Jun 22, 2021 - 2:06:21 PM

11868 posts since 6/2/2008
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

So the CBP now decides what violates trademark laws in the U.S.?  Not a court?

Have 'em check out that 2004 Gibson Granada with the replaced neck, which would be worth $200,000 if it were "real," but is worth only about $3,500.  Or the 1960 plectrum remade to look like an RB-4.  


Were those instruments made in China and imported into the U.S. to be represented as authentic Gibsons? If not, then there's no jurisdiction for CBP.

If this is hypothetical, then it proves nothing. But to address it anyway: We've all been around the conversion-copy argument many times.  The name "Gibson" doesn't belong on any outright copy. And a Gibson copy represented and sold as authentic to an unsuspecting buyer is a crime and so it's right for the appropriate authorities to be involved at some point -- if the aggrieved buyer so chooses.  It's also right for a trademark or brand name owner to involve appropriate authorities in stopping the manufacture and sale of counterfeit products bearing its trademart or brand.

But no authorities are going to stop anyone from merely possessing and using a Gibson copy or a "conversion" with very few actual Gibson parts. Gibson doesn't even go after the makers of copy guitars to the extent that it once did and I don't think I've ever read about Gibson going after the makers of copy banjos. Some people advertise 1970s Japanese Masterlones as "lawsuit banjos" but there's no such thing. 

Jun 22, 2021 - 2:54:43 PM

Alex Z

USA

4376 posts since 12/7/2006

" . . . to determine that the guitars violated trademark protections."

CBP doesn't know that legally, no matter how many experts they consulted.  A court entertains the evidence surrounding the situation and decides if a law has been violated.  Hey, it's OK to inspect and detain for probable cause, but you still get your day in court.

Whether or not the CBP claims discretion to inspect instruments at the Ryman, I don't know -- it's a long way from any border.

We can joke about it, though!  smiley

Jun 22, 2021 - 3:50:19 PM
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1863 posts since 2/10/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

" . . . to determine that the guitars violated trademark protections."

CBP doesn't know that legally, no matter how many experts they consulted.  A court entertains the evidence surrounding the situation and decides if a law has been violated.  Hey, it's OK to inspect and detain for probable cause, but you still get your day in court.

Whether or not the CBP claims discretion to inspect instruments at the Ryman, I don't know -- it's a long way from any border.

We can joke about it, though!  smiley


If the instruments are in fact legitimate then the importer/exporter can have their day in court and have the items returned. I doubt they will come forward and try and claim the seized property, because more then likely they are fake, and therefore may face penalties/prosecution. 
 

Property seizure occurs all the time on probable cause alone as the property is considered evidence. 

Jun 22, 2021 - 4:22:55 PM

Alex Z

USA

4376 posts since 12/7/2006

"If the instruments are in fact legitimate then the importer/exporter can have their day in court and have the items returned."

The alleged perp can always have their day in court.  That's where the legitimacy of the items are determined under law.   If they win, then the items are returned;  if they lose, then no.

I doubt they will come forward and try and claim the seized property, because more then likely they are fake, and therefore may face penalties/prosecution.

Good guess there.

Property seizure occurs all the time on probable cause alone as the property is considered evidence. "

Yep.  Evidence for the court.  Evidence for probable cause.  Not evidence for a summary and final determination of a violation of the law by the CBP.   Experts for the government would testify in court.

Jun 22, 2021 - 4:26:36 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4376 posts since 12/7/2006

True story.  I had a banjo student many years ago whose son-in-law was a _______State Trooper.  One day he came to his lesson and brought me two half pint bottles of liquid -- one amber and one clear.  Homemade brew.  The amber one tasted like bourbon, and the clear like Scotch.

He told me, "It's all lab tested.  After they use it for evidence, they don't throw the good stuff out."

smiley

Jun 22, 2021 - 9:43:29 PM

11868 posts since 6/2/2008
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quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

Yep.  Evidence for the court.  Evidence for probable cause.  Not evidence for a summary and final determination of a violation of the law by the CBP.   Experts for the government would testify in court.


The seizure was not a summary and final determination by CBP of a violation of the law.

It's the beginning of the process.

What would you prefer? That the goods be allowed to flow in commerce, charges be filed, then authorities try to locate the items so they can be seized, examined and entered as evidence? That's backwards. Search warrants are routinely issued on probable cause in advance of charges. Certainly in advance of judicial determination of actual guilt. One's day in court never precedes the seizure of the evidence that leads to the charges tried in court.

I'm having a hard time understanding your problem with what CBP did.

Jun 23, 2021 - 3:18:01 AM

1121 posts since 9/6/2019
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

True story.  I had a banjo student many years ago whose son-in-law was a _______State Trooper.  One day he came to his lesson and brought me two half pint bottles of liquid -- one amber and one clear.  Homemade brew.  The amber one tasted like bourbon, and the clear like Scotch.

He told me, "It's all lab tested.  After they use it for evidence, they don't throw the good stuff out."

smiley


I'm from southern Va where there is a moonshine still behind every other tree and my dad used to tell me that when the news showed the law busting storage barrels and letting the "shine" drain out, if the product was any good, they were actually busting barrels of water for the cameras. The good stuff was already in jars in the sheriff's office before the cameras got there to film the "raid".

Jun 23, 2021 - 8:03:39 AM

Alex Z

USA

4376 posts since 12/7/2006

"I'm having a hard time understanding your problem with what CBP did."

It's not what they did, but rather the posters who believe that the final determination of fraud and crime is determined by the experts at the CBP, and that the perps only get a day in court if they are innocent.  Doesn't work that way.   Seems like you agree.  

Geez.  Lighten up.  We can joke about it.  smiley  That's where the RB-4 stuff came in!

Edited by - Alex Z on 06/23/2021 08:04:37

Jun 23, 2021 - 3:31:01 PM

YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

207 posts since 5/11/2021
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quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

True story.  Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Two CBP agents go into a restaurant and order lunch.  

These are the guys to be trusted with determining whether or not that RB-4 is authentic?  smiley

 

They were ICE agents, not CBP. Different organization, different people involved. 

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