On its neck plate (or stamped into the guitar, or on the truss rod cover) it will say, "STEEL REINFORCED NECK".That's a dead giveaway that you've got one of "Uncle Matt's" guitars.Loosely defined (and coming into more popular use on sites such as e Bay and Craigslist) a "lawsuit" guitar is ANY old guitar made outside of the USA that is a copy of a popular US-made guitar.In this sense, any MIJ (or made in Korea, China, wherever) guitar that looks like a Fender strat or tele; or a Gibson Les Paul, SG, ES-335; or a Martin acoustic; or a Guild or Rickenbakker; can be labeled as a "lawsuit" model.During the 1970s, Hoshino used a single Japanese manufacturer for its electric guitar production. Currently Fujigen makes its own line of self-branded instruments, but in the 1960s up through the present, it also contracts with a number of other companies to produce instruments with other brand names on them.Beginning in the late 1960s, Hoshino began contracting with Fujigen to produce Ibanez-branded instruments.What does exist is a Trading Company named Hoshino Gakki Group.That company owns the Ibanez and TAMA brands (as well as some other minor brands).
Hoshino owns no manufacturing facilities beyond a small custom shop in California.
The terms "pre-lawsuit" and "post-lawsuit" are just more confusion, since people will apply "post-lawsuit" to an even wider range of guitars that have been significantly changed from their "copy" forms.
Just to be double clear: No lawsuit was ever brought against Aria, Greco, Ventura, Lyle, Fernandes, Tokai, or anyone else during the 1970s (or even 1980s). Here's a copy of a letter sent to Gibson Dealers on June 9, 1977, announcing the lawsuit: It begins like this: June 9, 1977 Dear Gibson Dealer: Today, Gibson, Inc., started legal action in Federal Court to stop the Japanese exporter of Ibanez instru- ments and its distributor from importing and selling instruments similar in appearance to those manufactured by Gibson.
Through the 1970s and early/mid 1980s, Fujigen was the exclusive manufacturer of electric Ibanez guitars and basses.
It's this intricate relationship between distributor (Hoshino), brand (Ibanez) and factory (Fujigen) which makes for much of the initial confusion surrounding MIJ guitars and their origins.