Worldwide Rights to Oberheim Trademark Returned To Its Founder

Oberheim founder Tom Oberheim

Tom Oberheim announced today that, after 36 years, the worldwide rights to the Oberheim trademark are now back with its founder.

Tom Oberheim founded Oberheim Electronics in 1970, and through the ‘70s and ‘80s, it became one of the most revered manufacturers of polyphonic analog synthesizers.

In 1985, though, Oberheim Electronics had to file bankruptcy and all of Oberheim’s trademarks and other assets were sold off by the bank.

In 2009, Tom Oberheim was able to re-enter the synthesizer market, resulting in a new generation of the SEM (Synthesizer Expander Module), based on his original SEM design from 1974. This evolved into a range of SEM-based products. And in 2019, he was able to bring back all of the Oberheim trademarks in the USA.

In several countries, though, Behringer‘s parent company, Music Tribe Global Brands Ltd., had registered Oberheim trademarks, along with a wide range of other synth-related trademarks.

With today’s announcement, international control of the ‘Oberheim’ trademark returns to its founder.

“I was very happy after all these years to have regained ownership of some of the Oberheim trademarks. This led to the hope that someday I would be able to use my own name in all countries where the Oberheim trademark exists, so we contacted Music Tribe,” said Tom Oberheim.

“Thanks to Uli and the team at Music Tribe and Behringer, I own the worldwide rights to my name for the first time since 1985,” he adds. “It is a thrill to once again be able to have the Oberheim name and logo placed on my products.”

“Tom Oberheim is a pioneer of analog synthesizers, and our whole industry owes him a debt of gratitude for his innovations,” said Uli Behringer, Founder of Music Tribe. “When we learned that Tom was still interested in making his own products with his original name, we knew the right thing to do was to transfer all of our Oberheim registrations back to him.”

The move follows the recent rejection by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) of MusicTribe’s attempt to register the “Behringer Oberheim” trademark. The USPTO determined that the term ‘Behringer Oberheim’ could falsely suggest a connection with Tom Oberheim.

Oberheim recently shipped the first “Oberheim” synthesizer from Tom Oberheim in decades, the TVS-Pro Special Edition.

50 thoughts on “Worldwide Rights to Oberheim Trademark Returned To Its Founder

    1. well i guess it is true….there is NOT such thing as bad publicity….from this post I will only remember something…something…Behringer…ride on!

  1. Finally some good news from Behringer. Classy to give back to Tom. He is an absolute legend. I love my SEM Pro with his signature.

    1. >comes to synthesizer news website
      >doesn’t car about synth news
      yeah chief, idk what you have going on but you should probably hang it up and take a walk haha.

      this is significant and wholesome news

      1. I care products, not trademark nonsense. Just because I don’t share the misplaced ethics arguments as much as real problems in the world.

        1. I care about ethics. They’re important, think of the government where you live and their ethics. I like to buy products from companies whose ethics I agree with. It’s good news that I can buy an Oberheim (or Marion!) synth and know there is a proper connection to the man himself. This works for me and because music is an artistic expression, a better connection to my instrument (however that happens) is a good thing. Ethics are important. Having Tom Oberheim making synth with his name on is also important in our world.

  2. Sounds like damage control on Behringer’s part after they 1) couldn’t get a US trademark and 2) got their asses handed to them in the Auratone trademark case.

    1. Music Tribe tried several times unsuccessfully to register Oberheim and Behringer Oberheim in the USA. They managed to register the name and old Oberheim logo in Europe, but that didn’t give them the ability to use Tom’s name worldwide.

          1. It didn’t expire. Music Tribe filed to invalidate the trademark so they could acquire it. Things went wrong in the US because a TM examiner said, “Hey, hang on. There’s a famous synth designer named Oberheim and he didn’t give this bunch the right to use his name for trade.”

  3. While it would have been nice for Uli to come to this conclusion before attempting to use the name, and attempting to trademark the Oberheim name within a new name, I am happy with the final result here. It is one thing to produce a clone or knockoff of equipment made 50 years ago and is long out of protection. It is another to try to take someone’s name and use it in a way that implies endorsement to those not in the know.

  4. > In 1985, Oberheim Electronics
    > had to file bankruptcy

    in 1985?? how ON EARTH could that have happened?? dmx, dx, dsx, obxa etc were all over the place at that time. i mean what the hell??

    1. It was sort of a recurring theme at the time, re: US manufacturers. By then ARP and EML were dead and gone, Buchla seemed to be in hibernation, and Moog was entering no longer trading / abandoned trademark territory, with Sequential not looking so good either. Many people blamed the Yamaha DX7 and bitterly complained that the originator of it’s underlying technology, Dr. John Chowning, had not sold the rights to it to an American company. He responded that he had tried to interest them all and every one had turned it down. So it goes.

    2. what happened?
      technology moved on
      the first affordable samplers were available like akai s612 & dx7 came out a year earlier.
      people were fed up with filtered pulse and saw waves that didnt sound like any “real” instruments

  5. Text from Wikipedia: “Oberheim went bankrupt and was acquired in 1985 by a group of lawyers who changed the name to Oberheim ECC. Tom was creatively still at the helm, although he left the company within a couple of years to start a new venture called Marion Systems. After a second bankruptcy in early 1988, Gibson Guitar Corporation, a larger musical instrument manufacturer (who, incidentally, also owned the Maestro brand), acquired Oberheim. Gibson, at the direction of Keith McMillen (Gibson’s vice president and chief of R&D), then produced the Oberheim OB-Mx in collaboration with D.N. “Lynx” Crowe and Don Buchla; the Oberheim Echoplex Digital Pro in collaboration with Aurisis Research (Matthias Grob, Kim Flint, Eric Obermühlner); and re-released the Oberheim Strummer and Matrix 1000.Gibson had split from its parent company, Norlin, in 1986. Norlin handled distribution for Oberheim’s major competitor, Moog Music.
    Oberheim/ViscountEdit. The trademark was later licensed to Viscount International, an Italian digital-organ producer…”etc..etc…

    So after all this turmoil it is Behringer who finally returns the trademark to Tom Oberheim. That has to count for something.

    Question: what now?

    1. Tom Oberheim already owned the ‘Oberheim’ trademark in the US.

      The reason he couldn’t use it was because Behringer had registered the ‘Oberheim’ trademark in Europe and was trying to register the ‘Behringer Oberheim’ trademark in the US.

      Tom’s problem wasn’t something that happened back in 1986, it was that Behringer has spent the last 5 years trying to get the rights to release a synth using Oberheim’s name.

      1. So what? Gibson (the owner of “Oberheim”) had let it expire (by not using it for many years), so Uli grabbed it.
        It’s all about business, and the business world is a shark tank.

        1. “It happens because it happens” is not even an argument. Yeah, we’re heading for an apocalypse because oil and meat industries show no signs of slowing down, so what? Oil companies gonna oil. What a way to think.

    2. Nice to see both Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim found justice, so to speak.

      One interesting thing of note is that the Gibson company apparently really seems to like hoarding other (older) brands without using them. Besides Oberheim (and their most recent acquisition in Mesa Boogie) they also have/had brands like Baldwin, Wurlitzer, Maestro, Viscount, Tobias, Steinberger, Valley Arts and Slingerland drums…

      …and apart from reviving the Kramer guitar brand and the odd Oberheim-branded product here and there (mid-90s Oberheim organ expander module, anyone?), they did absolutely *ZERO* with most of their own brands over the years!

      Go figure.

  6. Didn’t see that coming. However it’s good that the article makes it clear that this was essentially a legal capitulation by Mehringer and not purely an act of good will.

  7. Since Tom and Dave Smith have a good business relationship (OB-6, anyone?), the next natural move will probably be a fully pedigreed OB-X with a few modern sprinkles. IIRC, there was some murmuring about that idea. It’ll come at a dear, Prophet-like price, but it’ll be pure. Newbies and don’t-cares will end up buying the pending Behrenheim. I don’t give a rat’s. I prefer Full Bucket’s version of Korg’s PS-3300. Ha.

  8. Just wait until Uli suddenly starts to call those expensive Oberheim synths an rip-off and mimes a Robin Hood by selling extra cheap knockoffs, while calling Oberheim thievery on the poor. I mean, Uli and his marketing department did exactly that with other brands they’re stealing from.

      1. They can’t stop the insults buddy. 😉
        Musictribe is created to steal other people’s work.They simply deserve all the insults coming to them.

  9. I guess if Tom Oberheim gives the UB-xa the finishing touch, puts his signature on the back and cuts a royalty deal with Music Tribe to put the Oberheim logo on it, everybody would be happy 🙂

    1. You forget that signature Oberheim sound. Musictribe can’t built anything close like that.

      It’s not just about looks and a logo.

  10. This is another proof that Uli does not want to rob anyone, but only to restore the long-gone production of synthesizers that the original creators were not interested in for a long time.

    1. Except that he spent years trying to take over the Oberheim name and only gave up the European rights when he got rejected in his attempt to get the US rights.

      So now he’s a good samaritan.

  11. Good news all around. I hope Tom gets to do something cool with his name and brand again. I hope to see a great Oberheim poly synth of some sort.

  12. All of the above yea’s and nay’s not withstanding, prima facia evidence of what occurred behind closed doors allowed both parties to walk their way with their dignity intact. There are epic moral imperatives requiring much more attention than Uli and Tom’s “judicially assisted” conversation.


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