Tom Oberheim Applies To Trademark OB-Xa, SEM, DMX, XPANDER

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has ‘published for opposition’ several trademark applications from pioneering electronic instrument designer Tom Oberheim.

Last year, Oberheim applied for US trademarks for a variety of terms, including ‘Tom Oberheim’, ‘OB-Xa’, ‘SEM’, ‘DMX’ and ‘XPANDER’.  He had previously applied to trademark the terms ‘Oberheim’ and ‘SEM-X’.

Now, several of his trademark applications have been published for opposition, including applications for ‘OB-Xa’ and ‘XPANDER’.

Getting to this stage means that the USPTO has done an initial review of the trademark and that Oberheim addressed any issues that were raised in their review. When the USPTO publishes a trademark application for opposition, the government has determined that the application meets its legal requirements and it is giving the public 30-days to file an objection.

Oberheim has not publicly announced plans related to most of these terms, but it seems likely that their goals for trademarking the terms may be in part related to plans for future reissues and in part in response to Behringer’s plans for products based on classic Oberheim designs.

In 2016, Tom Oberheim and Sequential (formerly Dave Smith Instruments) introduced the OB-6, a new design, based in part on Oberheim’s classic SEM voice. The OB-6 has been well received, and it looks like Oberheim and Sequential may have another synth in the works.

In January, Sequential filed a trademark application for the term ‘OB-X’, suggesting that the company could be working with Oberheim on a reissue of the OB-X, similar to their Prophet-5 reissue.

In addition to the projects that Oberheim is involved with, Behringer has independently announced plans for knockoffs of a pair of classic Oberheim designs – the DMX drum machine and the OB-Xa synthesizer.

The company also applied to trademark the terms ‘Oberheim’ and ‘OB-Xa’. The company has abandoned these applications, though, and it looks like they plan to release their devices with slightly altered names, similar to what they did with their ‘MonoPoly’ synthesizer. They have shared demos of a prototype of their ‘UB-Xa’ synthesizer, based on the design of the Oberheim OB-Xa, and have announced plans to make an ‘OMX’ drum machine, based on the Oberheim DMX.

via matrixsynth, uspto

42 thoughts on “Tom Oberheim Applies To Trademark OB-Xa, SEM, DMX, XPANDER

  1. Typical Behringer scumbaggery. A horrible company that hasn’t done anything to democratize the synthesizer industry.

  2. Wait a minute. This guy is just getting around to trademarking his product names, 30-50 years after the fact? Not the mark of a great business person.

    1. Ted… Oberheim’s copyrights transferred to Gibson in 1988 when Oberheim went bankrupt for the second time. I’m not sure what happened to them in the intervening years. But it isn’t as if Tom Oberheim was able to access those trademarks until the 2010s.

    2. Trash talking one of the real pioneers of synth design without having a clue what you’re talking about?

      Not the mark of a great person.

  3. I’m a hundred percent behind Behringer’s mission to let musicians enjoy the beautiful sound of yesteryears, as the collector’s market has priced all historical synths out of the average musician’s price range.

    Yet I believe it to be beneficial for Behringer to let what’s morally and rightfully belonging to Tom Oberheim, and other legendary inventors, to remain theirs. This without dragging elderly gentlemen to court (which is a place for criminals!) in their pursuit of business.

    I’m sure other potential buyers of Behringer products and (sensitive) synthesizer enthusiasts, like myself, would appreciate this sort of behaviour…

    1. “Yet I believe it to be beneficial for Behringer to let what’s morally and rightfully belonging to Tom Oberheim, and other legendary inventors, to remain theirs. ”

      Umm, not you don’t. You just said you are all for Behringer making those synths. He is leveraging all the work and money that those original designers shed blood, sweat and tears for… and taking it for free. He is copying their trade dress as well. He is doing this with synths that are or just were still in production! In some cases, even the names… and only THAT was the bridge too far?

      It was never Behringers “moral” right to simply steal from everyone else to save you a buck while they get unbelievably rich. Their mission is SHIT. Newsflash, people don’t automatically have the right to every thing they ever wanted, just because it is expensive. Let’s apply that logic to all facets of life and watch society burn.

      1. I don’t think what MN wrote is inconsistent with what you wrote. For myself, the knock-off kitch that B are pushing doesn’t appeal to me, and would rather they did a bit of novel paintwork or pay the originator some sort of dues and then have a put a proper badge on.

        But I am fine with B producing synths whose insides are inspired by the classics. These electronic circuits are not very complicated and variations of them are already copied all over the place. No doubt back in the day all the big players were taking each others’ synths apart and getting ideas.

        1. I don’t think your description of what they are doing is accurate. Clearly, most basic analog circuit designs are derivative these days, and have been for a while. That isn’t really the issue.

          First, these are not just “inspired by”. They are going all out to duplicate them exactly. Sure, the patents have run out on the circuits, but we should be clear that there is nothing they are doing creatively here at all.

          The next and most rotten thing about what they are doing is stealing all the trade dress. They are making them look the same too. They are leveraging all of the work those companies did down to the look and feel.

          THAT is questionable legally, but nobody fights back because they don’t have the financial power to risk a long court case over it. Many of these designs are stolen from companies that still have current or recent versions of the originals available. They have been trying to buy up all the names from under the original owners! It is rotten to the core.

          1. I don’t get why they copy the trade dress. No-one is buying a UB-X thinking it is a genuine OB-X, are they. So it’s not really “passing off”, is it?

            Is the idea that people enjoy looking at a knock-off fake MonoPoly (or whatever)? I just don’t get it, just as I’d feel embarrassed having fake “Niek” shoes, although I’m quite happy to wear generic unbranded shoes that probably borrow bits of innovation from other brands.

            Or is it to save the money of paying someone to design a front panel? that can’t cost very much, can it?

            I don’t think anyone would be objecting if they just labelled it “oberheim-style”, like many companies (including studio electronics) did.

            1. Copying the look and name of the originals as closely as possible is a requirement for selling the illusion that Behringer’s knockoffs are a bargain.

              If they can convince you to compare the Behringer ‘MonoPoly’ to a vintage Korg Mono/Poly (which is a rare collector’s item), then Behringer can convince you that you are getting a huge bargain and that they’re the saviors of the synth world.

              If they don’t do this, though, a new Behringer monophonic synth is just another monophonic synth, and you’d compare it to things like the Bass Station 2 and realize the BS2 is cheaper and does a lot more.

              1. Thanks, I can see that some may be convinced by that reasoning, although I thought synth fans were smarter than that. I guess I’m not the target market.

                Studio Electronics made a business of cloning various different filters in the ATC-1 etc, but they didn’t feel the need to copy the graphic designs and logos. In fact they have very distinctive graphic designs of their own. I know which one I’d rather have…

    2. They can also honor and compensate these guys. Plenty of music companies pay to license people’s names. Hey, even Marvel finally started to value Stan Lee by throwing his face in ever movie.

  4. I’m not sure what to make of the idea of a new hardware Xpander or Matrix-12. Even with modern improvements, those two are so complex, they’re like surfboards of the gods. You need to understand what you’re getting. Otherwise, its a huge doorstop. Same goes for the new GForce OB-E. You’re way out of mere boop-beep toy synth territory at that level. Whatever Tom creates, it’ll be solid.

    1. As a previous owner of both an Xpander (3 of them -plus OB8 and OB6), as well as a moderately large eurorack system, knowledge and use of a varied eurorack will give you the ability to understand the complexity of the OB stuff. I hope I don’t come of as condescending as well.

      1. Thanks for sharing. Claiming Oberheim’s trademark is revolting. Given their rotten company culture, we should see more “low blows” coming up on that page…

      2. The Behringer Oberheim TM application received a preliminary refusal because of the potential of confusion with the existing marks (both Oberheim and Behringer). It takes great skill to accidentally trip over your own trademark while filing a new one.

    1. Oberheim is his name and in the USA, a person’s name has protection. If you read the original USPTO refusal when Behringer attempted to trademark it, the USPTO stated that Oberheim was the name of a famous living inventor who had not given permission to use it.

  5. Ditto to what Brandt Gassman and Itchy said. I’ve avoided their products since the Eurodesk days. It just seems a bit foul for a company to be such an emulator. (Not the vintage sampler from Emu)

  6. Behringer surely knows how to navigate in legally troubled waters, but a court should at least condemn them to pay a revenue share to the creators on every sale. I don’t care if the prices go up. This insane craving for always more and cheaper has been eating into our planet for too long.

  7. FYI, this story is even more complicated. Europe has slightly different Trademark rules that don’t give precedence to individual’s surnames. Music Tribe recently registered European trademarks for both OBERHEIM and OB-Xa. Tom Oberheim’s USA registrations appear to block global use, so this gets interesting.

    The reasonable thing would be for Behringer to back off and surrender Tom’s name in Europe.

    1. I want to believe this means a new Xpander is on the way — complete with seperate outs, 46-mode filters based on the AN701, and SSI2130 VCOs with through-zero FM — but unfortunately this is probably just about protecting Tom Oberheim’s reputation and legacy.

  8. I want to believe this means a new Xpander is on the way — complete with seperate outs, 46-mode filters based on the AN701, and SSI2130 VCOs with through-zero FM — but unfortunately this is probably just about protecting Tom Oberheim’s reputation and legacy.

  9. so the funny thing is that in the US we have a first to file precedence, meaning that if his trademark expired and beringer filed before them, they could get the tm. I have a friend who did this in making boutique guitar pedals that looked for expired brands and then filed for their names and produced under them.

    1. Nope. Not that simple. Music Tribe filed TM application 87262808 in the US for OBERHEIM back in 2016. The USPTO identified two issues and issued a non-final refusal: Section 2(a) Refusal – False Connection, and Section 2(c) Refusal – Lack of Consent (both in relation to Tom Oberheim).

  10. Behringer might do something original again like Deepmind or Neutron. No Arp, No EMS, No Oberheim. If they actually got it to market in a year that would be refreshing. Oberheim is certainly not living like a king – leave his name alone.

    1. They’ve figured out they can sell 10 Minimoog knockoffs for every Neutron.

      So Behringer is doubling down on making knockoffs. Just look at the latest thing they introduced – the Arturia Keystep knockoff.

  11. Re: the trade dress mentioned above. This is how they sell the clones, because it offers the thrill of having something that vaguely resembles (or in some cases exactly copies ” the real thing”. This has been an ongoing thing in the software world, where you might have a plug-in that looks like a Pultec, but sounds nothing like the real deal. To his credit(?), Uli is trying to get the sound right too, but given the volume he’s selling, why not let the originators get a cut? They are the best salesperson imaginable for their creations, their participation will increase sales 10X.

    The Irony is that Behringer has put out some good products. The Deep mind series may have started as a Juno knock-off but it really is it’s own vision and delivers a lot of value for the $. Uli is robbing the past, while he is strangling his own future legacy. How many Berhinger products will get copied 20-30 years from now? He has everything he needs to transform the industry and make iconic products based on an original vision. No need to lurk in the shadows of those past innovators — forge a path forward to create new and exciting products for us!

    But first, please ship your knock off of the CS-80. I’ll overlook that one.

  12. Behringer just should ask Tom Oberheim’s blessing to rebuild one of his famous synths and let have Tom a share in it: Both companies happy and happy customers if they keep it affordable.

    But we’re lving in a world where people are alright with abuse of power, greed and lies. So the problem is not complex but people are just deceitful.

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