Gibson gives back Oberheim brand rights to Tom Oberheim

The guitar giant had held the trademark since 1985.

Tom Oberheim (right) and Dave Smith. Image: Jesse Grant / Getty Images for NAMM

Gibson has today announced that it is giving back rights to the Oberheim brand to veteran synth maker, Tom Oberheim. In a move that the guitar giant is describing as “a gesture of good will for the music instrument industry”, both brand and intellectual property will be returned to their original owner.

The synth pioneer founded the brand in 1969 and made iconic instruments such as the OB-8, OB-X and SEM. But, in 1985, the company ran into financial difficulties and Oberheim was forced to sell his company. Gibson then acquired it in 1988. 

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

Under Gibson’s stewardship with direction from then R&D chief Keith McMillen, the Oberheim brand put out the OB-Mx.

According to a release from Gibson, the story for returning the Oberheim rights began at Winter NAMM 2019, when Curleigh and Oberheim met by chance. “After over 30 years of being without it, I am thrilled to once again be able to use the Oberheim trademark for my products,” said Oberheim. “I am very grateful to the new leadership team of Gibson for making this possible.”

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Although Oberheim sold his company, he’s remained active in the world of synth development. Since 2009, he’s been remaking his most iconic synths. And, more recently he teamed up with Dave Smith Instruments to launch the OB6 analogue polyphonic synth.

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