1976 Ibanez Custom Agent Artist 2405

An example from the Ibanez "lawsuit era"

For those old enough to remember, the Ibanez instrument company hasn’t always been associated with the modern stylings of their famed RG model, Vai JEM, or Gilbert Fireman. Back in the ’70s, the company was just starting to get a firm grasp on the artistic and production techniques that would define them as a major player in the musical instrument industry. Around this time, Ibanez’s reproductions of various Gibson designs instigated one of the industry’s most notorious lawsuits. In 1977, the Norlin Corporation—which owned Gibson at the time—sent a cease-and-desist warning to Ibanez. Gibson’s lawyers felt the best plan of attack was to base their lawsuit on similarities in body style and utility. On June 28, 1977, the case of Gibson v. Elger Co. opened in Philadelphia’s Federal District Court. In early ’78, the two sides reached an agreement: Ibanez would halt production on the look-a-likes if Gibson would refrain from any more lawsuits. Not only did this suit attract major attention to the burgeoning Japanese guitar market, but it also forced Ibanez to sink or swim by developing their own designs.

Here’s an example of an Ibanez “lawsuit-era” guitar. The 1976 Custom Agent Artist 2405 in a transparent maroon finish is a great example of Ibanez’s penchant for melding traditional design with artistic flair. The maple-topped mahogany body sports a mother-of-pearl inlay at its lower bout, matched by equally extravagant MOP fretboard inlays, and a headstock shape reminiscent of their mando-design. The pickups were originally Super 80 models, but were replaced with double-cream DiMarzio Super Distortions before the current owner purchased the guitar years ago.

Thanks to Dien Judge for the opportunity to feature this fine instrument.

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