Gibson Guitar Case Will Stay in California

     LOS ANGELES (CN) - The battle over a British company's use of the Gibson guitar brand name will remain in a California courtroom, a federal judge ruled.
     Nashville-based Gibson sued John Hornby Skewes & Co. of Great Britain in Federal Court in January, claiming the British distributor had been selling knockoffs of six Gibson guitar models to stores and Internet customers in California.
     In April, Hornby Skewes asked U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson to transfer the case from Los Angeles to Tennessee, Gibson's home district. The company claimed that a Nashville courtroom would be more convenient since it is closer to Great Britain than California.
     Pregerson denied the request, noting that travel times between London and L.A. are not significantly different than London to Nashville. The judge also said that while the British company only planned to call a single expert witness from the Nashville area, Gibson would likely call dozens of witnesses from California - including its own customers and distributors there.
     "On balance, the court finds that the interests of the parties and witnesses do not favor transfer," Pregerson wrote. "The sole fact asserted by JHS to which the court accords any weight is that a single expert witness it intends to call resides in Tennessee. This is not a sufficient basis to overcome the limited deference owed to Gibson's choice of forum, particularly in light of Gibson's reasonable explanation as to why it finds this district to be more convenient to it than its home district."
     Pregerson found the interest of justice did not favor a change of venue, since most of the factors weighed were either irrelevant to the case or neutral. But inconvenience and cost to the majority of potential witnesses - and the fact that Pregerson has already handled two previous trademark cases between Gibson and JHS - favor keeping the case in L.A., the judge concluded.