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Statement from Heritage Guitar, Inc. Regarding Legal Action Against Gibson

Christian Wissmuller • Upfront • March 14, 2020

On March 14, we received the following from Heritage Guitar:

For the first time in over three decades of existence, we at Heritage Guitar Inc have found it necessary to take legal action. Yesterday, we filed a defensive lawsuit against Gibson in response to an ongoing and excessive campaign of harassment by the Gibson team since they came under new ownership.

The histories of Heritage and Gibson are undeniably intertwined. We represent the ongoing legacy of more than 100 years of guitar building at the legendary 225 Parsons Street factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a location that Gibson called home from 1917 to 1984.

When Gibson moved away from Michigan in the spring of ‘84, our founders stayed behind. Having spent much of their lives building guitars at that factory as Gibson employees, they stayed not only for their families and their city of Kalamazoo​,​ but also to keep building guitars in 225 Parsons St. Having purchased some of the original guitar-building equipment at auction, they took up space at the abandoned factory and started Heritage.

Though the beginning of our new era at 225 Parsons St was rocky, we enjoyed a peaceful coexistence for nearly 29 years thanks to a settlement agreement mutually agreed with Gibson in 1991. We were surprised when threats and spurious claims that were inconsistent with our original agreement started coming in from Gibson’s new management team. We responded promptly and amicably, despite their aggressive threats to “outspend” us legally if we didn’t comply.

As is the experience of many U.S. factories today, it has grown challenging as more and more manufacturing has moved overseas. Tough decisions have been made along the way, but in the past few years we’ve made our range more focused. We put the needs of the player first. We obsessed about the quality of our product. We know today from not only our own experience as musicians and builders, but also the feedback of our dealers and players around the world that our instruments leaving 225 Parsons St today are setting new standards of excellence for USA-made guitars. There’s still so much more to come.

Yesterday’s action was about us standing up and showing we’re not going to be bullied by companies that lack the integrity to stand by their word. Our filing calls on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan to stop the campaign of harassment from Gibson’s new management once and for all, and to make a declaratory judgement which asserts our right to continue to operate peacefully as we have done since we came to an amicable resolution in 1991.

To all our partners and players over the years, thank you for your continued support. You can be assured that we’re not going anywhere. We believe in our duty of responsibility to our team and to our artists​.​ Given the approach Gibson seems to be taking towards us and the broader guitar industry, we believe it is now more important than ever that a company with integrity continues the legacy of building the world’s finest American-made guitars at 225 Parsons St, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Yours faithfully, Heritage Guitars Team

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