Activision sues Guitar Hero developers

Publisher files suit against series producer, brand manager, hardware group member, RedOctane's PR firm, and unlicensed peripheral manufacturer The Ant Commandos.

Last year, Guitar Hero publisher RedOctane and parent company Activision sued The Ant Commandos, a company that makes unlicensed guitar controllers for the popular rhythm game. They claimed that the peripheral maker infringed on its trademarks. The Ant Commandos filed a countersuit alleging that RedOctane copied the official Guitar Hero peripheral's design from its parent company's "Magical Guitar" controller, released years earlier for Konami's Guitar Freaks line of games. By year's end, the two companies had settled their dispute.

Now Activision is suing The Ant Commandos again, with a complaint filed in US District Court in Los Angeles last month. But the peripheral maker has some company this time. Three people who worked on Guitar Hero and PR firm Reverb Communications were also named as defendants. Reverb formerly represented RedOctane, and last month announced that it was providing services to The Ant Commandos. In the same press release, The Ant Commandos announced that Reverb's vice president of business development had joined its board of directors. Harmonix, the studio that developed the first two Guitar Hero games, is not named or involved in the suit.

According to legal filings in the case, three of the people who worked on Guitar Hero II for RedOctane--executive producer John Tam, brand manager Corey Fong, and hardware group member Jamie Yang--started a new company in conjunction with The Ant Commandos, referred to as both Lodestone Entertainment and Hourglass Interactive.

Activision is accusing the three workers of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, misappropriating trade secrets and confidential information, breach of contract, interference with contractual relations, and more.

The publisher has already obtained a temporary restraining order against the developers, preventing them from distributing a demo Tam created. The demo incorporated elements of Guitar Hero and StepMania, a free dance game for the PC that supports dance pads and includes a step editor. The restraining order also prevents them from "taking any steps to develop, market, manufacture, sell, or distribute any guitar or drum based video games," unless The Ant Commandos can produce evidence that such a game was developed without the involvement of the trio or Reverb Communications.

Furthermore, the three developers are prevented from using or disclosing any knowledge of Activision trade secrets they have. The order specifically mentions things like contract terms for music licensing and in-game advertising, sales figures, marketing plans, product designs, and possible future songs and artists to be featured. They are also restrained from taking any steps to develop a guitar controller for the Xbox 360 edition of Guitar Hero II until the game has been on shelves for at least three months.

Finally, the developers have been ordered not to solicit Activision employees, partners, or Asia-based manufacturing vendors.

The developers' lawyer, representatives for Reverb and The Ant Commandos, and a representative with Activision all declined to comment on the suit.

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143 comments
woofie13
woofie13

I'm really not a fan of activision; and this just sinks them even lower.

zapper188
zapper188

So what excatly is good music?? Your own opinion no definitive type of good music But I prefer rock.Old stuff and new Metal too And before you call everyone idiots..Dont..Everyone is entitled to their own opinion..Including music. Not just yours. Oh and Guitar Hero rocks..Holding out for Rock band instead of spending £70 for the 360 version.

xtcdukes
xtcdukes

"RavenBlade_9 : Activision nailed them, they cannot escape this suit. Good job Activision for being on the ball, IMO." You're kidding right? Do you even know the exact details of the situation other than what you've read? Could it be possible that Activision just wanted to wrestle away an already successful franchise from the hands of its creators? And for what? Now Harmonix is gone, John will have no say in the next installement, which means it's going be nothing but a bunch of metal and craptastic alternative garbage from the 90's. Hell, GH II is already showing signs of just that. So, now instead of having a series that is driven by someone who loves and appreciates music (classic rock no less), we'll have the same morons from Activision who have chosen the last few Hawk playlists (which are so bad I can't even begin to describe) now choosing the set lists for the next installment, let alone the 360 Live content? Guitar Hero is dying and Activision's EA-like greed will be the final nail. Although most of you idiots wouldn't know good music if it was put in front of you anyway, so maybe they will sell a ton of copies in the future.

crsx
crsx

i just hope they come out with a GH3. I don't care for all this legal mumbo jumbo

X_Box_Killer
X_Box_Killer

Activision should worry about making their games bug free. I remember plaing True Crim LA last year on the Cube, and the amount of bugs was crazy. How did this pass Q/C, let alone Nintendo's ? It was an epic fail.

Raiko101
Raiko101

Guitar Hero is the rock sequal to Frequency and Amplitude. Just 2 games in hundreds of rythmical music games. You can't copy a genre. But this all sucks anyway. Activision should concentrate on publishing good games and not strangling money out of every possible hole. This isn't good media attention.

nobeaner
nobeaner

Just looking at the names involved and the positions they held, I do not see how The Ant Commandos did not see this coming.

diablusx
diablusx

I dont see this going very far otherwise what does it mean for all those companies that make bootleg controllers for all the systems?

FOO_JY
FOO_JY

They make tons of cash and still they need to get more... pityful

ForlonHope
ForlonHope

I actually had the PS1 game Guitar Freaks (it was in japanese) and it had the same gameplay as games of Bust a groove (move). This was back in 2000. Red Octane definetly copied Konami's work.

darth-revan
darth-revan

i hope red-octane steps in this instead of watching at the sidelines.

Splintersixcell
Splintersixcell

mixing to major industries always has a lawsuit in the middle

Sephir0th_
Sephir0th_

haha. ive seen this pc guitar hero game before and ive even tried it out. The moment i started it i knew someone was going to get totally screwed over on it lol. saw this coming a mile away.

StillWingless
StillWingless

Shouldn't businesspeople realize that splitting away from a company but still using that company's licenses will almost certainly equal a lawsuit? Corporate backstabbing like this always ends up with lawsuits, and they're always bad for those that split off. (And that doesn't even start into all of the tangled conflict-of-interest stuff that goes on.)

topcatyo
topcatyo

Jesus, a company comes out with a successful game and you have craziness everywhere surrounding it.

darkmind-tvtome
darkmind-tvtome

yea, activision does seem to actually have a decent cause of action here, which surprises me, these kinds of corporate suits usually seem tenuously founded

Impostorzim
Impostorzim

That settles it. This is just being smart personally. Activision are doing a good move making sure those 3rd Party Vampires don't potshot B titles in the near future.

pencilpusher69
pencilpusher69

This may end up being the Tetris lawsuit of this decade!

VegetaMaelstrom
VegetaMaelstrom

I can just picture the Activision executives in a meeting right now thinking up what they can sue Harmonix and MTV over. Heck, Activision might even be thinking of pulling a Madden and getting exclusive rights to all the big label's songs. It wouldn't surprise me so much as disgust me.

Vash67
Vash67

That's pretty extreme. Though I guess it seems like a problem that needs to be dealt with.

ebgamesnake112
ebgamesnake112

Man, their's always some legal tension with things dealing with music...

DGFreak
DGFreak

ookiig: I trust Neversoft to put out a good bunch of sequels to Guitar Hero. Additionally, it sounds to me like Activision's suit is well founded. It has specific complaints, specific defendants, and specific requests. The 3 developers should have known better.

V-Nine
V-Nine

I'm with Expane on this one.

Expane
Expane

Odd, if they had just forced them to sign a no compete clause it would be a non issue. 3 months isnt very long to wait for 3rd party guitar, I hope they make cool ones (skip the 80s cheese and focus on Gibson/Fender etc..)

KoruKinshi
KoruKinshi

There goes the neighborhood. Jeez. I miss the days of Echelon, where the third-party type guys worked together against corporate, not join them.

Morhavoc_IRL
Morhavoc_IRL

if ant commandos can improve on the guitar(which would be hard) fair play to them but at least make a game to go with it! dnt just steal ideas from someone else, that aint right

ookiig
ookiig

When I read the headline I was thinking Activision was suing Harmonix. I don't know what the storys with these guys are, and I don't really care. They worked for Red Octane, which was just the publisher. Harmonix is the talent that makes good music games. I don't know what Harmonix is doing next (I hear rumors of a more realistic guitar game), but my interest in Guitar Heroes (I am a fan and own both) is greatly reduced without them. With Activision owning and mass producing GH games, my interest in the series is even less. I would love to hear Harmonix is doing a new Guitar Freaks for Konami, as they've developed Karaoke games for Konami in the past. But, that is unlikely as they are now owned by MTV. Without Harmonix I'm curious about Freezepop. Will they be in the next GH game? What about the characters that are based off of real people like Judy Nails? Will they reappear in the 'non-harmonix' GH games? Can Activision 'own' the rights them? Or are they close to the Harmonix, not Red Octane? There is just so much I would like to know, but so little we do know.

KING_JORGE_619
KING_JORGE_619

dang these people making games is not about money its about the people who play the games

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

This is what happens when the money men step in to take over a successful series. At least we got 2 great games before things started to go all wobbly.

smoothn00dle
smoothn00dle

The first guitar game is made by Konami.. Comeee Konami!!

LexLas
LexLas

Well I guess they learned their lesson. I hope they made enough money of their products to cover the law suit, as they should of known better. Good deal.

redskinStu
redskinStu

Well, I'm not an expert but it sounds like something pretty wacky is going on behind the scenes. Do you think money has something to do with it?

makemeweak
makemeweak

Sounds ugly... bad business decisions on the part of the Red Octane folks.

2deluxe
2deluxe

Harmonix stole GuitarFreak's gameplay design and made it stupid with Guitar Hero.

Auron7814
Auron7814

"Activison, karma is gonna get yah. So now employees can't start their own business doing what they love?" Not while under contract they can't.

vandiemen007
vandiemen007

So now employees can't start their own business doing what they love? Who cares if they love it or not...do you not think Activision would let them continue developing games they love? They are just trying to protect what is theirs. Those developers had to be dumb as rocks to think they wouldn't get sued...

StevenJWeir
StevenJWeir

Activison, karma is gonna get yah. So now employees can't start their own business doing what they love?

kakashi_00x000
kakashi_00x000

i also thought of playing guitar hero and DDR at the same time, i can barely play ddr though.

dryden555
dryden555

Activision is protecting its Guitar Hero license because the developers formed their own new company: this is what companies do to each other.

raziellich
raziellich

Hmm...that guitar hero/stepmania crossbreed sounds fun.....oh well.

Slash_out
Slash_out

Copyrights are copyrights, they don't belongs to "creators" (the rights) but to the compagny that pay them to create stuff. If you leave/get kicked out, you can't use what you created under that compagny name, elsewhere anymore. If that story is true i am behind Activision. There are no good reasons to be behind those that do not respect copyrights, for the compagny's good, for our own good, as well as for every others compagny good. If you let that happen, it will surely happen in other compagny more and more.

GSVale
GSVale

They probably made them sign non-compete agreements when they started working at Red Octane, almost 100% sure they did since it would have been a smaller studio then. Maybe they just didn't think they'd actually get sued over it.

Cloud737
Cloud737

WTF?!? Is Activision mad for filing all those complaints and seeking a restraining order, or does it actually have a stand? It seems to me like Activision is trying to stop The Ant Commandos at any cost, legal or not, so they can cash in on the profit. I mean, I understand temporary restraining order for the demo and the final version of the game they`re going to produce, but for the development too? It`s like they`re trying to delay every game that seems to give Guitar Hero competition, and I don`t think it`s fair...of course, most companies don`t care about if it`s fair,legal or moral. Hope they get kicked real hard in case what they did was wrong.

cliffcat
cliffcat

mjc0961 These stupid dance/rythm games all suck anyway. Good riddance. You mean you suck at them and cannot appreciate them. I'm tired of people like you who have nothing better to do than say "This [INSERT GENRE] Sucks. As for the suit, well it's quite stupid. You have the copy cats filing a suit against the originators for copying their stuff. Quite ridiculous.

SpareJesus
SpareJesus

mjc0961 These stupid dance/rythm games all suck anyway. Good riddance. Just because you can't spell or play them doesn't mean they suck. This is disgraceful. I can't believe Activision would turn around and backstab a company that's made them so much money. I hope Red Octane find a way to leave them and go solo again. (Hah, solo. Guitar pun.) It's official, Activision suck almost as much as EA.

Vorador47
Vorador47

Knucklesdude "how does this affect me??" "wow...pointless article...i just want GHII for 360 NOW!" Read this: "They are also restrained from taking any steps to develop a guitar controller for the Xbox 360 edition of Guitar Hero II until the game has been on shelves for at least three months." Well thats stopping them from making 3rd party controllers until the games been out 3 months, so unless he really wants a 3rd party one, it doesn't really effect him.

Ivoryblaze
Ivoryblaze

I can see both sides, but please Activision no Ant Commandoes controllers for 3 months!?!? Sorry, but that is just retarded....if your worried people would just end up buying the game, and going with third party controllers then make one that blows the competition away.

esplender
esplender

oh please..why does the world of games and entertainment being flawed by this kind of thing? Activision..come down man..