At the last Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, California we were surprised when we discovered a full-sized exhibit emblazoned with our Hottie® logo above it – AND loaded with Hottie-branded, Chinese-built, electric and acoustic guitars. The booth was filled with dealers and other NAMM attendees. We were stunned by the brazenness of the exhibitor, Zunyi Shenqu Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co. from Guanzhou, China. In addition to the booth header, our Hottie logo was printed on the firm’s business cards, product guides, guitars, and even guitar tuners.
We confronted Shenqu staff, informing them that we own the Hottie® brand and all associated U.S. trademarks (electric, amps, acoustic), that they were selling counterfeit guitars that could be confiscated by the U.S. government, and that we were within our rights to ask NAMM to close their booth. Hoping we could eventually come to a positive resolution, we pursued no further action at the show.
Upon our return from NAMM, we sent Shenqu Guitar a cease and desist letter. In response, Shenqu agreed to stop selling the line in the U.S. but intended to move forward with our Hottie® brand and logo internationally. This is extremely disappointing to us. It seems that they are within their rights to do so as we hold no foreign trademarks, only U.S. trademarks.
We launched Hottie Inc. in 2005. Our goal was to develop a high-end, exclusive boutique brand. Since then our American-made amps and electric guitars have been reviewed and promoted extensively in Premier Guitar, Rolling Stone, Guitar World, Guitar Player, Music Trades, ABC’s Nashville, etc. We’re confident that people who visited Shenqu’s booth at Winter NAMM recognized our brand. In those cases, Shenqu’s counterfeit brand was elevated and ours, to an equal degree, was devalued.
Today we find our logo throughout Shenqu’s website (www.shenquguitar.com). The site also indicates that Shenqu is an OEM supplier for ESP Guitars and BC Rich, though top executives from both companies claim no affiliation with Shenqu. Tom Petty graces the cover of the Shenqu catalog and Joe Bonamassa is pictured inside. Amazing.
We’d like to engage Hottie® owners, musicians, and U.S. guitar and amp dealers, and let them know that all genuine Hottie® products are made in the United States. Hottie Amps® are made in our Portland Oregon workshop. Hottie Guitars® are handmade by Master Luthier Saul Koll in his Portland Oregon workshop. We share no affiliation with Shenqu Guitar. We do not manufacture overseas.
We hope this experience will serve as a lesson to other boutique builders and entrepreneurs. It’s quite expensive to take your ideas to market. At that point, the beginning of your journey, that last thing you’re thinking about is “Someone might co-opt my brand.” In most cases your brand doesn’t even exist then. You haven’t made your first dollar. You are years away from breaking even or, if it ever comes, profitability. Your company is just a dream. And it’s very hard to justify spending real money to protect a dream. Our cautionary tale: invest in trademarks – today.
Look for our new Hottie Radio Amps, coming Fall 2017.
We’re Hottie®. We Update, Innovate, Hot-Rod, and Mod.
(Chloe Escudié, Owner Hottie Electrics)