Fake guitars sold as the real thing hurts the guitar trade.
Mostly, fake guitars are sold as new guitars but recently some builders who age and clone guitars are getting the heat, too. On Feb 28 Fender filed a lawsuit against Kelton Swade. Kelton was a master ‘cloner’ making vintage knockoffs that had all the trappings of the originals down to the neck wear, dings, etc. Clearly, there are other builders who are living by the licensing and trademarking rules Fender requires and are not being subjected to a lawsuit. But, evidently Kelton took things too far with Fender. They are threatening to sue him $2M per infraction. It seems not only did he tell Fender in no uncertain terms to take a flying leap, but he also bragged about his ability to make a vintage clone so close to the real thing even experts can’t tell the difference. He claims to not have put Fender logos on the head stock of the guitars, and claims to have always used his own logos. But, according to the lawsuit, Fender submitted images of guitars from Kelton’s website bearing the Fender logo. Fender tried to catch him in the act with some undercover purchasing as well.
To me, (and I am not a lawyer) if he used licensed necks, didn’t put a Fender logo on the head stock, made it clear they were replicas and didn’t use Fender trademark terms he probably wouldn’t have found the heat. If everyone buying the guitar KNEW it wasn’t a real Fender, maybe Fender would not have had an issue, but within trademark law they might have still had a case if they wanted to pursue it. But…he took it too far, was arrogant, and is going to pay the price. I will also add that while Mr. Swade seems to have cleaned up the written descriptions on his website he has failed to cover his tracks entirely. When you look at the image file names the words “stratocaster” and “telecaster” are used in the file name! Those terms are trademarked by Fender and using them is probably an infraction as well and is certainly an indication that Mr Swade just didn’t care.
Sonic Valley Guitar Show has a zero tolerance policy for unidentified knock-offs being passed as originals…if anyone comes to the show and tries to sell a knock-off guitar or a part (awesome or not) as an authentic model you will be identified and escorted from the show. I know people who “relic” authentic Fender and Gibson guitars…but they tell people exactly what they are…that’s the opposite of falsifying originality. In addition, the general public will also be held accountable for the guitars they bring into the show for sale or trade. The public has to be able to trust the dealers and the instruments at the show. Not everyone can spot a fake, so it’s everyone’s job to keep them out of the show.
Actual files pulled from Kelton Swade’s website as of this blog posting: