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ION Audio’s Guitar Apprentice generated lots of attention from national press at the Consumer Electronics Show this week. It’s a guitar shell that holds an iPad, helping people learn to play guitar using a special app in combination with a light-up fretboard.

Behringer's iAxe Guitar

Turns out another company had the same idea — and it has the attention of the U.S. Patent Office. Behringer, the musical instrument and audio products maker, was touting its iAxe Guitar at CES this year, with a new patent in its back pocket — granted, by coincidence, on the first day of this year’s show.

An outside PR rep confirmed that Behringer intends to enforce the patent, but the company isn’t saying how or when that might happen. GeekWire has left messages for ION Audio seeking comment. As of earlier this week, ION was still showing its Guitar Apprentice on the show floor, and talking about plans to release the product this year for $99.

Behringer’s iAxe has another dock at the headstock for an iPod or iPhone, letting users read music or lyrics. The company hasn’t yet announced pricing or availability for its product.

Costa Lakoumentas, a senior vice president for Behringer parent Music Group, says the company wants to build a legacy out of the product, introducing people to a new musical experience and creating an ecosystem of software and even hardware partners around it.

“We could have rushed to market with it, but really wanted to protect that IP — that was critical,” he says.

The company’s patent, filed as an application in May 2010, lists Behringer founder and CEO Uli Behringer as an inventor, along with Brian Crouch of the company’s Bothell, Wash., office. Here’s the abstract from the patent.

A synthetic guitar includes a body, a neck extending from the body, and at least one touch sensor at the neck for indicating finger position of a user. The body has a receptacle for removably securing a tablet computer to the body. The tablet computer has a touch screen for indicating finger position of the user. A processor of the tablet computer is programmed to receive input signals from the touch sensor and the touch screen and to produce an output signal based at least partially on the input signals. The software can enable the synthetic guitar to be used as a music synthesizer or to be used as a video game controller. The synthetic guitar can also include a retainer for removably securing a portable media player to be used as an additional video display while playing the guitar.

In a news release Uli Behringer says he “wanted to make a product that introduces everyone to the lifelong pleasure of making music by not only providing instant musical gratification but to also guide and grow the musician’s talent toward becoming a sophisticated guitar player.”

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