A small group of protestors including punk rock icon Exene Cervenka gathered outside the Anaheim convention center Saturday urging NAMM attendees to boycott Guitar Center and instrument company KMC Music Inc. The action stemmed from a claim by two local musicians, Michelle Mangione and Steve Soest, who say their idea for a percussive pedal was stolen by a former Guitar Center VP.
Speaking to the Weekly outside the convention center, Mangione, who recently worked on a song with Cervenka, said she and Soest approached Guitar Center with their prototype back in July 2011.
"We literally had a corporate meeting with them," Mangione said. She specifically named Guitar Center's then VP of Merchandise, Drums and Percussion Mark Nelson, who she said referred to the pedal as an innovative product.
After weeks of emailing back and forth with an interested Nelson, Mangione said they stopped hearing from him altogether. She and Soest claim Nelson then took their idea to a colleague at Gibraltar Hardware (owned by KMC), and in July of 2012, a product nearly identical to their prototype was released (without their knowledge) as the Gibraltar Cajon Pedal.
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"We found out about it by seeing an ad in a Guitar Center Magazine photo," Mangione said.
She and Soest filed an intellectual property case against KMC, Guitar Center and Nelson in Orange County Superior Court in May of 2013. The 16-page complaint alleges trade secret misappropriation as well as breach of contract. Mangione said she hopes to take the case before a jury but explained that the defendants have been stalling in court.
"They're trying to squash the case before it goes to a jury. There's so much evidence, and they know it," Mangione said.