On October 14 and 15, 2011 the Bigsby Division of the Gretsch Company was honored to exhibit at the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) National Trademark Expo held at their headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia for a second time.
The annual event, with the goal of educating the public about the value of trademarks in the global marketplace, highlighted such themes as “non-traditional trademarks” and “brand evolution” and featured educational seminars and workshops suited for both adults and children. In addition, exhibits of authentic and counterfeit goods, children’s story time, and the always-popular costumed trademarked characters helped draw attention to the different types of trademarks and the importance of protecting trademark rights. Open to the general public, the Expo also drew enthusiastic groups of children from area schools and club groups who enjoyed the various exhibitor booths which were designed to be both educational and entertaining. This year’s Expo was the USPTO’s biggest to date with over 16,000 visitors attending over the two days.
The opening ceremony on Friday featured special remarks, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and music by the US Air Force’s rock band Max Impact. A guest appearance by the legendary Chubby Checker and some new trademarked costumed characters including The Pink Panther and The Very Hungry Catepillar also helped kick off the event. A specially-arranged musical performance took place at the Bigsby and Gretsch booth both days. A young, local guitarist named Enrique Romero helped entertain Expo-goers as they made their rounds through the exhibition. On Friday Enrique was paid a special visit by Chubby Checker who listened attentively while he played and then offered his encouragement. Enrique’s performances became so popular that he played more frequently than originally scheduled—performing every hour during the afternoon on Saturday. The costumed trademarked characters joined in the fun and danced along during many of Enrique’s performances to onlookers’ delight.
Another Expo highlight was when Deborah Cohn, the Commissioner for Trademarks, made a special point of introducing herself to all exhibitors and personally providing each with a copy of a Congressional Record honoring the Expo and exhibitors selected to participate in 2011. Bigsby was one of only 27 companies selected to exhibit this year. The distinctive trademarked shape of Bigsby’s famous vibrato tailpieces was in good company with other internationally-familiar trademarks belonging to other such notable exhibitors as Mattel Inc., Segway Inc., the U.S. Department of the Army, Bridgestone Corporation, Caterpillar Inc, Geico, and The Hershey Company.
Bigsby was able to demonstrate the practical use of trademarks and patents as applied to something as fun and universal as making music. Many in attendance were surprised to learn how much the Bigsby inventions have impacted popular music as created by artists like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In fact, Gretsch guitars have featured Bigsby vibrato tailpieces for more than fifty years. This year’s Bigsby/Gretsch display demonstrated the importance of Bigsby trademarks and the impact they have as source identifiers in the marketplace. Like most effective trademarks, the very shape of Bigsby tailpieces identifies them—even at a distance, when the brand name cannot be read. This allows Bigsby-equipped guitars to be recognized on concert stages and video broadcasts around the world. The inherent distinctiveness of the Bigsby tailpiece design has aided the Gretsch Company in getting the protectable portions registered. This, in turn, has helped Gretsch to pursue its campaign (as part of the Electric Guitar Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition) to stem the proliferation of counterfeit instruments wherever they are manufactured.
For more information on the USPTO, go to www.uspto.gov
For more information on Bigsby products and the Gretsch/Bigsby connection, go to the Bigsby site.
Videos from the Expo can be viewed at Bigsby’s YouTube page.