Fortin issues trademark notice to solo Ukrainian instrument builder over Evil Pumpkin name
Update (13 March 2023): Fortin has now issued a statement in response to the situation. The article below has been updated to reflect this.
Fortin Amplification has issued a trademark threat to Kyiv-based Analog Music Company over its Evil Pumpkin product, citing a clash with its US trademark in relation to its as-yet-unreleased amplifier of the same name.
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Analog Music Company’s Evil Pumpkin began life as a modded Boss DS-1, with its circuitry extensively changed to turn it into a noisy desktop synthesiser. It is now a fully original unit, technically entitled The Evil Pumpkin Ghazala. It still uses repurposed DS-1 enclosures in part. Fortin’s Evil Pumpkin is a guitar amplifier head, the release of which has been delayed due to supply chain issues.
In an email to Analog Music Company’s founder Konstantin, shared on Instagram, a lawyer representing Fortin notes that the company owns the trademark for “Evil Pumpkin” in the United States. He then states: “I noticed that your Evil Pumpkin pedals have been sold in the USA. I am sure that you were unaware of this trademark registration so I would like to kindly ask you to stop using the name EVIL PUMPKIN for your pedals as it is infringing the above-referenced trademark.”
“Please let me know if you will be changing the name of your pedals. I see you are living in the Ukraine and I wish you well. Stay safe!”
In his response, Konstantin states he has no plans to change the name. He also notes that AMC first used the Evil Pumpkin name in 2019, and the first product sale was in January 2020, whereas Fortin’s trademark in the US was filed in August of 2020. Additionally, his company owns the trademark for the name in Ukraine, where it is based.
The decision has drawn widespread criticism from the gear community. A larger company “lawyering up” against a small business is seldom a good PR move, but in this case Fortin is being viewed by many commenters as particularly callous. It is being pointed out how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put massive pressure on the entire country, and Fortin could be seen to be exploiting this. On Instagram, Konstantin also called the lawyer’s sign off, urging him to stay safe, “cynical.”
Konstantin told Guitar.com: “It was quite a shock – because I am a one man operation, assembling pedals literally in my kitchen. Sometimes my friend who is a mother of three is helping me with basic soldering, packing and shipping. She is also in Kyiv, working as a medical worker during the day, and takes an additional job with my pedals to feed her children. So how I or we making pedals literally during air raids are posing a threat to mighty Fortin – is beyond me.”
As of Monday (13 March 2023) Fortin has now addressed the situation in a statement shared with Guitar.com. The company addresses several things surrounding the situation. Firstly, it disputes the framing of the initial communication as a “threat”: “[Fortin’s legal representative] merely informed them about the trademark and asked if they would be willing to change the name of the product to avoid future confusion.”
Fortin also notes that the communication was in response to an Instagram post made by Analog Music Company on 15 January 2023, which stated its intention to make its Evil Pumpkin Ghazala available “with dealers in the UK and USA.” This, Fortin states, goes against Analog Music Company’s statement which claims it only sells directly from Ukraine. Fortin also notes several instances of Analog Music Company selling directly to the USA. This is seemingly not something it disputed – however, if its product was found to infringe on Fortin’s trademark, the latter would be able to stop AMC’s Evil Pumpkins from entering the country.
In response to Analog Music Company’s claims that its use of the mark predates Fortin’s, the company links to a 2012 YouTube video depicting an early version of the Evil Pumpkin amplifier head.
In its statement Fortin also condemned aggressive messages it and its legal representative has received, including accusations that they both support Putin. Noting its lawyer’s Ukrainian heritage, Fortin states these accusations “are not only completely inaccurate, but abhorrent and incredibly insulting to everyone involved in the company.”
Its statement ends: “We have not requested anything untoward or unreasonable, we only feel that it would be better if there could no confusion between the two products in the US market. It is standard practice to secure the names of products, and AMC have even done this themselves in Ukraine, which shows that they are prepared to legally protect the name.
“It is extremely unfortunate that it has come to this, as it appears to be the latest situation where the internet has acted as judge, jury and executioner. We have nothing but strong support for small boutique companies who are trying to find their way in an industry that is already extremely crowded. If we didn’t support small boutique companies, we would simply have United States Customs seize all of their products when they enter the United States. This would be extremely damaging to these small companies because their customers would never get their products and the company’s reputation would be damaged. Since this is not something we want to do, we have informed companies about our trademarks and the companies gladly changed their name because they were unaware of the trademarks. No products were ever seized and those companies continued to grow.”
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