The recent arrest and three-year jail sentencing of Beijing’s Li Dan was a monumental victory against the proliferation of counterfeit guitars. Not only were 1,200 fake guitars seized, but years of efforts on the part of the Gibson, the Electric Guitar Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (EGACC) – which consists of Fender, Gretsch, Ibanez and Paul Reed Smith – and Chinese legal authorities paid off, leading to the sentencing of Li Dan.
Dan operated paylessguitar.com.cn, paylessguitars.com, musoland.com.cn and musoland.com, web domains that targeted overseas consumers with alluringly inexpensive fake guitars advertised as authentic Epiphone, Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Ibanez, and Paul Reed Smith brand guitars. Of the 1,200 guitars seized at Li Dan’s warehouse and retail outlet this past fall, 861 were Gibson and Epiphone branded.
The hosting companies for Li Dan’s Web sites responded to Gibson’s legal notices by shutting down her sites in 2007. Surprisingly brazen, Li Dan simply re-introduced them months later using new hosting companies. She also kept photos of herself on her Facebook page, and images of her attending guitar tradeshows were found on the Internet.
It was a long road to Li Dan’s conviction, taking more than a year for the EGACC to successfully petition the Chinese government to assist in upholding the United States’ intellectual property laws.
In November 2008, Li Dan, her mother, her business partner Yu Hui, and four other business associates were arrested. (Li Dan’s mother was arrested because all of Li Dan’s collections were being routed through her mother’s bank account.)
At last the EGACC had accumulated enough evidence — testimony, shipping and sales records, etc. — for the Xuanwa District Court in Beijing to convict Li Dan. On May 6, 2009, she was sentenced to three years in prison.
Darrell Prescott, who represents the EGACC, said, “These follow-up actions by the Chinese authorities should make it abundantly clear to those who traffic counterfeit guitar products that they will pay a heavy price for their actions. While this case is closed, continued vigilance is required and the EGACC will continue to take swift, decisive action against this type of illegal activity in the future.”
The problem of counterfeit guitars certainly isn’t a new one. For many years Gibson has faced the battle head-on, taking aggressive action to shut down entities illegally masquerading as Gibson or using Gibson’s brand names and trademarks unlawfully.
Gibson’s Manager of Brand Protection Ric Olsen said that Gibson has continued to fight even as counterfeiters and infringers have become more prevalent and more cunning at fooling consumers.
“With the current economic conditions we’re seeing such an increased abuse of our brand names and intellectual property this year,” Olsen said. “It’s amazing what’s going on right now. It’s a free-for-all, and people are trying to get away with it. But Gibson is bearing down harder than ever on the enforcement and protection of our valuable brand names and trademarks. We won’t stop fighting this.”
Eliminating counterfeit guitars continues to be one of Gibson’s top priorities for many reasons, but mostly because it is so clearly a concern to so many of our consumers.
A couple of summers ago Gibson.com ran a consumer warning acknowledging the counterfeiting problem and offering tips about how to spot a fake Gibson. That story turned out to be one the most popular stories to ever be published on the site, receiving thousands of clicks each day. Consumers spoke loud and clear, and they’ve continued to.
Each day, emails pour into Gibson’s Customer Service team, full of tips and complaints about counterfeiters. To cite one such example, a man recently wrote in to alert us to an illegal site.
“When I was web-surfing I found an illegal Web site,” he said.“They sell imitation items of Gibson. I don’t want to see the imitation of my guitar. Terrible!”
To curtail the growing problem, Gibson advises all consumers to purchase Gibson instruments, or any other instrument from Gibson’s family of brands, only from our network of authorized dealers.
Consumers are encouraged to contact Gibson’s Customer Service team, whether the guitar in question is new or used.
“We have a wonderful customer service department,” says Olsen. “Anybody who questions anything they’re about to purchase should bring it to us.”
To report incidents, consumers should file a police report, and may also visit http://www.ic3.gov/
For questions about a guitar’s authenticity, contact the Gibson Customer Service team at firstname.lastname@example.org