8 Easy tips to spot lawsuit guitars, are lawsuit guitars any good?

Topics covered
1.Intro to lawsuit/clone guitars
2.8 Things to look for to spot a lawsuit guitar?
3.What are the reasons people make lawsuit or clone guitars?
4.What’s the difference between lawsuit guitars and clone guitars?
5.How much do fake guitars cost the economy and genuine manufacturers?
6.What’s a lawsuit guitar like to use?
7.What is the build quality like on a lawsuit guitar?
8.How to make a lawsuit guitar better?
9.How to spot clone/fake guitars? 8 sure signs
11.After thoughts

1. Intro to lawsuit/clone guitars

Lawsuit guitars or as they’re also known “clone guitars” are guitars that are made to look like the real ones they are copies of, but with a few major quality and financially ruining differences (if you paid the price of a real one for the lawsuit/clone guitar).

Lawsuit guitars or clone guitars are made with much less attention to quality than the genuinely produced ones. Their focus is to make it look good enough for you to buy it thinking it was the genuine article and they get your money and not the original manufacturers.

The reason they get the name “lawsuit guitars” is because since the 70s lawsuit guitar manufacturers have been trying to copy closely the patented designs of genuine premium guitar brand products.


This has naturally upset the original manufacturers as they don’t want other companies copying them, taking their business and devaluing their products in the eyes of the customer. 

2. 8 Things to look for to spot a lawsuit guitar?

The parts on lawsuit guitars have been made to look very similar to the original and work in much the same way but they do have very clear signs that they are not the originals.


8 sure signs to look for to spot a lawsuit guitar:

Signs to look for to spot a lawsuit guitar
1.The tuners will usually be blank unbranded
2.The neck plate if it has one will be an unbranded blank
3.The guitar will most likely not have a serial number
4.The pickups will be unbranded and have no model numbers
5.The logo brand on the top will be something similar sounding to the original like Chibson instead of Gibson or a random unheard of name that has no website of factory listed.
6.It does not state where it was made e.g. made in USA/japan etc.
7.When it is played it will sound very budget and stock as these guitars are made to look not sound like the originals they imitate.
8They will be cheaper than the originals.

Lawsuit guitars are just like a supermarket own band bottle of coke, you can easily tell is not a bottle of Coca-Cola.

Lawsuit guitars are a big problem for the original manufacturers as the cheaper lawsuit versions are competing for the same business.


This is very problematic mainly because the customers that want the original product will be buying the lawsuit one instead and getting a guitar that has not got the same manufacturing standards which possibly could devalue their expectations of the genuine original

I did buy a lawsuit guitar when I first started learning the guitar back when I didn’t fully understand want the difference was.


3. What are the reasons people make lawsuit or clone guitars?

The real reasons people make lawsuit guitars and clone guitars is the same reason they make clone designer gear etc.

Why they make lawsuit and clone guitars
1.They can make it for far less than the originals worth.
2.Because they can make it for far less than the originals worth they can trick most people into buying them.
3.They can get them made in places where labour is very cheap thus making more money and they are able to sell it for lots less.
4.People keep buying them, if nobody did they wouldn’t make them.

4. What’s the difference between lawsuit guitars and clone guitars?

There are a few different approaches the makers of lawsuit guitars and clone guitars take, the lawsuit guitars are trying to make a guitar that looks similar to the original but the average person could easily tell that it’s not the same.

They would also be selling it for far less than the guitar it is trying to imitate to encourage people to buy it.

Their targeted buyer is someone who would like the original but maybe they cannot afford to pay the full price, so the lawsuit guitar that is similar for much cheaper will make them consider buying it.

This could be that they feel that they have got a bit of a bargain perhaps.

The clone guitars manufacturers on the other hand are going much further to deceive, the agenda of the clone guitar manufacturers is to make you think it is the real one and pay the full price, these are much harder to spot and many people are duped each and every year into buying these fakes.

It takes a very informed buyer to spot the non-genuine examples.

5. How much do fake guitars cost the economy and genuine manufacturers?


The international cost to the world from fake guitars is around a staggering $33,000,000.

Photo by Pixabay on

This took some finding from a few places but from the website they had an article called Counterfeiting and piracy in 2021 – the global impact

In this article they found out the following:

international trade in counterfeit and pirated products could have amounted to as much as $509 billion in 2016, estimated to be 3.3% of world trade

As you can see from the above figures 3.3% of world trade is counterfeit.

So if I find out how much the guitar industry is worth then work out what 3.3% of that is, it will give a best guess of how much lawsuit guitars and clone/fake guitars are costing the world economy.


From their research they put the world guitar industries worth at $1 billion and supporting over 5200 jobs.

Source 2


6. What’s a lawsuit guitar like to use?

I did buy a lawsuit guitar when I first started learning the guitar back when I didn’t fully understand want the difference was.

This is a video I made of my lawsuit guitar a Guy Tyler les Paul type

After owning this guitar for a while now its looks are definitely the best feature, although the sound can be ok in some ways the generic pickups can let this guitar down, making the sound feel flat and lacking.


7. What is the build quality like on a lawsuit guitar?

This is a big question and is like asking which fake is the best, but in general they are in most cases playable.

From what I have seen and played like the guy Tyler guitar I bought the quality is ok for most beginners to be honest.


But as new players learn how to get the best out of a guitar you will soon see the some or all of the following happening.

Build quality problems in cheap guitars
1.The tuners won’t stay in tune or become loose.
2.The electrics might have a hissing hum when the volume is medium to high. (This could be a cheap amp too.)
3.The paint finish might wear of quickly as the coatings are thinner.
4.The input jack might become loose and lose connection due to cheap parts bending.
5.The pickups even set up correctly will sound weak compared to other genuine bands.

Because most beginners learning the guitar haven’t had time to learn how to play yet, a lawsuit/clone guitar will be just like any other guitar to them.

For some guitar players they find one that just works for them and they stick with it.

But the general pattern that happens is they upgrade it or sell it, then buy a genuine brand and move on.


8. How to make a lawsuit guitar better?

Photo by Matthias Zomer on

If all you have is a lawsuit/clone guitar and that’s all you can afford or just want to make it better.

look at changing the following on them if needed.

UpgradeCost average
for quality
1.Tuners, to improve it staying in tune£20-$100/$28-$136
2.Better electrics to stop hums/hisses
(without pickup change)
3.Guitar paint respray
(professional labour not spray can DIY)
4Guitar paint respray DIY
(including sandpaper etc)
5.New quality pickups
(only pickups not including fitting)

As you can see from the table above, it is going to cost quite a bit to upgrade your guitar to something of quality.


Unless you want a custom look and are using the lawsuit guitar as a base for the custom guitar project then they are ideal for that.

But for most people they might be happy with just upgrading the pickups or tuners if they really like the guitar or can find used parts somewhere.

It is probably better for the long run to buy the genuine brand instead of the lawsuit or clone guitar.


9. How to spot clone/fake guitars? 8 sure signs

Clone guitars are different to lawsuit guitars in one approach the lawsuit guitar manufacturers are trying to make something that sort of looks like the original but it is clearly not.

Whereas the clone guitar manufacturers are trying to make it identical to the originals to fool people into thinking it is the original; your typical counterfeit crime.


These are very hard to spot but there are ways you can spot them but it does take some work.

Things to check on fake guitars
1.The branding decals need to be straight
2.The serial numbers should be checkable
3.If it says it’s a 1985 guitar it should look aged and not brand new
4.The finish should be without defects
5.There should be no differences between examples of the same model
6.It should come with a certificate from the manufacture (these can sometimes be fake too but it’s good to check anyway).
7.Do your homework on the exact model look at as many pictures from the original manufactures as possible to spot any tiny differences
8.The seller should be credible and not from a random source selling it cheap

10. Summary

Lawsuit guitars are usually well made if you aren’t expecting top end, showing that if they made guitars with their own designs, they could maybe rival the originals instead of copying them.

This happened with Ibanez in the late 60s into the 70s, Ibanez were copying Gibson’s and other brands guitar designs too closely and Gibson took them to court sued them and won.


This then forced Ibanez to change what they did putting more effort in from the late 70s.

From this effort they created some of the most iconic guitars there are, powering them on more than the copies ever did.

Even to this day Ibanez make some really high quality guitars that in some ways far exceed the guitars they were copying in the beginnings of the company.


11. After thoughts

I suppose the moral in that story is don’t under estimate what you can do, copying what others do will only bring you less than they achieved.

But putting in the work to make it better than what is available, speaks for itself.



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3 responses to “8 Easy tips to spot lawsuit guitars, are lawsuit guitars any good?”

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