A Quick History of Stratocaster Copies

Jon Clemence
3 min readApr 12, 2022

If you’re a guitarist like me, you recognize this classic guitar style at a glance:

Buddy Holly’s Strat
Buddy Holly’s Strat (Photo by John W. Schulze from Tejas, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a Fender Stratocaster, of course. The axe used by countless rock-and-roll gods, from Jimi Henrix to Eric Clapton. It’s iconic. It defined a brand and even a way of life.

Yet have you ever noticed how many companies make a “Stratocaster” guitar? Any company — heck, any luthier — worth their salt has a Strat option that, for the most part, has an identical body to a real Fender. But what about trademark laws? Why doesn’t Fender step in to stop these other guitar makers from using their design?

Designing the Stratocaster

The Stratocaster was unquestionably designed by Leo Fender in 1954. At the time, it was revolutionary, not resembling any other guitar on the market. It had a double cutaway and an instantly iconic look. The look was good enough — nay, perfect enough — that it has virtually remained unchanged for almost 70 years.

So why didn’t Fender step in and stop the copycats?

Well, they tried — and failed.

Trademarks and Fender’s Day in Court

Fender did in fact bring the matter to court in 2008. The company sued a number of their competitors for using several of their…



Jon Clemence

Medium needs more guitar-related content. I. Am. That. Hero!