G-strings drawn into musical lawsuit

Guitar battles are supposed to be a little more fun. Yet this one, laid out in a lawsuit filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Medford, is less about the licks and more about legalese.

Stephen Marchione, a guitar-maker based in Houston, claims in the lawsuit that in 2006 he agreed to create a Playboy-themed design for an acoustic and an electric guitar for Steve Clayton Inc., a guitar-maker based in Talent.

In return, according to the contract included within the lawsuit, Marchione was to receive a 3 percent cut of the sales of guitars with his designs.

Marchione, whose website says he's designed and built more than 400 guitars for artists including Mel Tormé and Paul Simon, created the Playboy-themed designs, the lawsuit says. Clayton later used them, but Marchione claims he was never paid. The lawsuit estimates Marchione is owed $850,000.

"That's kind of silly," Clayton said Tuesday, after hearing for the first time of the lawsuit. He went on to say that it was Marchione who came up short of the contract.

"He had to provide us with a physical prototype and he didn't live up to that," Clayton said. "We had nothing physical to look at or sell."

Clayton said that several years ago his lawyer informed Marchione that he'd violated the contract. Since then, Clayton said, he was careful to steer clear of creating any Playboy guitars with the same body shape or design that Marchione had provided.

"We made darn sure," Clayton said. "He became a real pain, real quick."

Yet Richard Rizk, a Portland-based lawyer helping with Marchione's case, said that Marchione saw one of his designs show up on the cover of Playboy magazine.

Clayton's website says he's "proud to work with Playboy to create their own line of guitars."

Indeed, his site shows numerous Playboy bunnies in recent years cuddling a variety of Clayton guitars. But none, Clayton said, were designed by Marchione.

The contract signed by Clayton and Marchione, filed as part of the lawsuit, describes the work to be produced by Marchione as "sketches and prototype guitars."

The document went on to say that the guitars should be able to be reproduced and sold for retail prices ranging between $799 and $1,299.

Clayton said he had not yet been served with the lawsuit and, for that matter, he's not too concerned.

"This is out of the blue," he said, noting that he'd alert his lawyer. "And, it sounds like a frivolous lawsuit."

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