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Gibson Grants Oberheim Synth Trademark Back to Founder Tom Oberheim

The guitar maker first purchased the iconic brand more than three decades ago.

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Guitar manufacturer Gibson has granted back ownership of the legendary Oberheim synthesizer brand and intellectual property to its founder Tom Oberheim, the company announced on Friday. Gibson had owned the Oberheim trademark since 1988.

“Of the many stories I have heard and decisions I have made since joining Gibson, this situation seemed simple,” said Gibson president and CEO James “JC” Curleigh in a statement. “Let’s do the right thing by putting the Oberheim brand back in the hands of its’ namesake founder Tom Oberheim.”

Founded in 1969, Oberheim Electronics was a pioneer in the manufacture of synthesizers, introducing such influential machines as the OB-8, the OB-X and the SEM. Gibson acquired the trademark in the wake of the company’s second bankruptcy, but Oberheim himself has continued to independently produce synths in the three decades since, including the recent OB-6 alongside fellow synth trailblazer Dave Smith.

“After over thirty years of being without it, I am thrilled to once again be able to use the Oberheim trademark for my products,” added Oberheim. “I am very grateful to the new leadership team of Gibson for making this possible.”

In a press release, Gibson states that the decision to grant the trademark back to Oberheim arose from a “chance encounter” at the NAMM show this past winter. It cites a return to the company’s core business — following an ill-fated stab at re-branding itself as a “music lifestyle” company under former CEO Henry Juszkiewicz — as another reason for the move.

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Gibson filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2018 and is currently in the midst of a recovery under the leadership of Curleigh, who boarded the company last November. In a February interview with Billboard, Curleigh characterized Gibson as “a 125-year-old company that’s taking the approach of being a 125-year-old startup,” with a new focus on balancing iconic products such as Les Pauls with more contemporary guitar models.


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