Gibson Guitar Hero suit thrown out

Federal judge denies claim by Guitar maker alleging that instruments for Activision's rhythm franchise violated 1999 patent.

Looking back, 2008 was a litigious year for Guitar manufacturer Gibson. Three years after a 2005 deal with Activision to have licensed the use of its guitars in Guitar Hero games, the Nashville-based instrument maker went after the Santa Monica-based game publisher in court.

Gibson's lawsuit contended that Guitar Hero's mock guitars--modeled on actual Gibson axes under license--infringed on a patent it registered in 1999 for "technology for simulating a musical performance." So adamant was the six-string supplier about its claims that it threatened legal action in a Tennessee court against retailers who sold Guitar Hero games and against Electronic Arts and MTV over Rock Band's faux guitar.

After the original filing last March, Activision quickly asked the US District Court of Central California to throw out Gibson's suit and prevent the guitar maker from seeking damages. Last Thursday, the court did exactly that, summarily dismissing the contention that Guitar Hero violated U.S. Patent No. 5,990,405, which Gibson holds.

"No reasonable person of ordinary skill in the relevant arts would interpret the '405 Patent as covering interactive video games," wrote Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer in a stern ruling obtained by GameSpot. "Gibson would have this Court determine that any device that controls something that produces musical sounds is covered by the '405 Patent."

The Tennessee motions also appear doomed, as they had been stayed pending the outcome of Judge Pfaelzer's decision.

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Discussion

104 comments
mesc420
mesc420

LOL @ Gibson, what a bunch of A-holes! That lawsuit was kinda like letting someone borrow your car,then as soon as they drive off you call the cops and report your car stolen...

Spider-Jim
Spider-Jim

I don't get it , they gave them a license to do so and then sued them?

KAISERKONG
KAISERKONG

After hearing this three years ago, I swore I would never buy a Gibson guitar...and today I own a Fender bass, Fender Squire Strat and a Washburn bass when I could have easily settled for an overpriced Les Paul and been done with buying guitars for a while. Thank you Gibson for showing your true colors!

Taffelost
Taffelost

Can you say stupid? Gibson's got the best free commercial in the history of mankind because of GH, and they're taking those responsible to court. WOW. I'm awestruck by how many corporate idiots there's in mangement around the world. Guitar retailers around the world are all saying Guitar Hero has made them sell more guitars. Think about all those little freaks that's already established a relationship with their plastic Gibsons because of GH. Goodwill that will follow them for the rest of their guitar playing lives. Gibson needs to find themselves some new PR-advisors.

Delta_Ops
Delta_Ops

I Like Gibson Guitars, But Like Many People Can't Afford Them So I Settled And Bought An Epiphone SG to Add To My Collection. Plus I Think The Lawsuit Was Stupid You Allow Them To Use Your Name And Products In Game But Suit Them Because You Think Their Controller Is To Similar To Your Patent.

DerekLee688
DerekLee688

Cool people don't run multi million dollar companies. Money is money, and if you're not trying stunts like this then your not "in the game". I also think it's a stupid lawsuit, but then again I'm not a C.E.O.

CreatureRising
CreatureRising

:( Makes me sad i just got a Les Paul. I have always admired Gibson cause i loved there guitars more then anything but i didnt have the money so i was stuck with my Stratocaster. Well they lost some of my respect going after such a Silly Law Suit.

Jettero-Heller
Jettero-Heller

@ Judge Judy: "Sorry I didn't mean to sound like an ass" I know. I'm afraid I did however, come across as an ass. I really should have mentioned that I am a huge Ibanez fan especially their mid & late 70s original offerings. Widely considered by many (myself included) to be the WORSTperiod for Gibson EVER. Modern Ibanez axes are very nice as well. I read a Guitar1 review of the prestige a while back and they loved it and I believe them. Back to the 70s-80s which is where Gibson earned that reputation. They were owned by a European company called Norlin and it's just stuck with them since. That being said, I was a youngster during those days and spent every Thursday & Friday after school & all day Saturday hanging out & eventually working at my Buddies family music store from about 78 to 82. In that time I probably handled & played several hundred Pauls, SGs, 335s, & of course my prized 1980 EXP2 which I have to get refretted BTW. Out of that 4 year period I can honestly remember a pair of LP standards 3 LP Customs a few Deluxes (my personal fav. Paul) & a handfull of other examples which were absolute toneless, unplayable EXPENSIVE junk. Their QA has improved greatly since then and I have no problem with the brand at all. But even then they were still putting out awesome instruments just like today where the occasional junker seems to get past QA. I'm sorry I sounded like a condescending jerk but like I said I old & cranky. I was defending the Gibson products and not their rabid litigation practices. Sorry for the novel.

arod1122
arod1122

Ugh more patent infringement crap. This is like Nintendo's many patent law battles all over again...

judge__judy
judge__judy

Sorry I didn't mean to sound like an ass, everyone does have their own opinions on guitars. My point was that gibsons are far overpriced and that the company is very greedy and not very good to their customers. I also think saying that gibsons are the best guitars in the world is actually the beginner thing to do as they definitely aren't. I'm obviously not saying ibanez are better I'm saying they are good value and have very good quality control. And yes I owned a high end japanese burny les paul custom(pre law-suit guitar) which was a very close copy of a gibson les paul custom. I would easily rate it on par with gibsons and even higher then most of their standards. It had VH-1 pickups and a good clean and slightly overdriven tone, but had a 50's style neck and single cut-away which doesn't suit me. I sold it though to buy a laney vc-30 amp and digitech bad monkey

modem22
modem22

Wow there are actually couple of smart judges out there; but a lot of stupid companies like Gibson who knows that their market is dead right now.

okassar
okassar

W00t,even though I own Rock Band lol,I hate it when companies make stupid claims like that.

chibi-acer
chibi-acer

Thank you for smart judges. Sadly, summary dismissal of such cases is a huge factor in determining the outcome. A lot of juries seem to find in the case of the plaintiff for patent cases, usually because there's such a huge gap in clear patent laws.

Mystoksor
Mystoksor

It's ridiculous the stupid things you can patent in the US. Can you believe that amazon actually has a patent for being able to make an online order without filling out billing information -_-

JGoWild
JGoWild

@enix165, "So...Gibson let GH make their guitars into controllers, now they're suing them?! That's stupid...XD". nah man, it aint just stupid. Its the American way.

Jason_Morris
Jason_Morris

As a guitarist, I'm glad to be a Fender man (and Ibanez, too). Anyone who can remember the dire guitars Gibson made during the early 80s will know how wrong they can get things!

RE-fanatic
RE-fanatic

It's a way for them to get more money, since GH is a very popular series

MightyJordan
MightyJordan

Gibson really need to look back at their deals. They gave RedOctane permission to use the SG as the guitar for the very first Guitar Hero game, then for GHII on the Xbox 360, they let them use the X-Plorer, then the Les Paul for GHIII (Kramer for the PS2 version), and then they tried to sue them for using them. They also tried to sue Harmonix for using the Fender Stratocaster guitar, which isn't even made by them! I'm surprised this lawsuit wasn't thrown out earlier.

CaptainHawk1
CaptainHawk1

FarmFresh, it's not an issue of the licensed style of the Les Paul, it's the issue of the technology for the Guitar Hero/Rock Band style musical simulator device. They are two separate issues. What's really disingenuous is Gibson not having a problem with the alleged patent vilation until after they had a falling out with Activision. What the court ruled is basically that Gibson is out of their mind if they think that their patent is so far reaching that that any device that simulates musical sounds is covered under their patent.

senorbusyman
senorbusyman

i always knew that GH and RB had problems than just the game, and manurfacturers!!!

enix165
enix165

So...Gibson let GH make their guitars into controllers, now they're suing them?! That's stupid...XD

dbark88
dbark88

@judge_judy, I do agree with you on some points about the Gibson, but most of your complaints are only valid about the LP. I actually personally hate the LP as well. I own a flying v, and let me tell you the fret access is perfect. The neck is as thin as a neck should be, and I have had no quality issues with it for the year that I've had it. I like Ibanez guitars and wouldnt mind having one as a backup guitar, but IMO they are also very overrated. The one you have sounds great, but most of them really don't offer anything impressive to me (other than a thin neck, which is a little too thin for my tastes). Also the pricing issues are not that big of a deal due to the existence of Epiphone (have you seen the prophecy series, awesome stuff for around $700). Anyways my take on the news is that while they do make nice guitars they are definitely jackholes.

darkboy90
darkboy90

This is such a stupid lawsuit. Gibson is going on something way over his head. He is trying to sue too many people at once and the judge could clearly see that this guy was only after money and not about lisencising rights or anything like that. I still cant play the guitar hero and rock band guitars yet and still think this lawsuit is an insult to people who cant play an actual guitar.

thewolf619
thewolf619

Common Sense, it's a beautiful thing.

phase4illini
phase4illini

For once one of these patent suits went the right way. Sufficed to say I'm impressed.

FarmFreshDX
FarmFreshDX

I don't understand why they would think they can sue when the licensed the guitars to them anyway. But any real guitar player already knows the Les Paul is king, so it's not doing them that much good. No GH-playing 8 year old is really going to go out and buy a $1K guitar. (Or even the cheaper Epiphone models of the Les Paul.)

Thebomb44
Thebomb44

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Get_Shorty
Get_Shorty

Well Gibson just burned that bridge all to hell. They shouldn't have filed suit. Still like their guitars though.

tetrasoft
tetrasoft

It's about time that a judge actually got something right. I'm a big Gibson fan and own several Les Pauls, but when Gibson started its legal case I was let down. Greed has gotten the country in a mess and its good that corp greed gets beat back ever so often. I agree you would think that would want the free advertising. I can't tell you how many kids I saw playing the demos that were telling their parents I want a Les Paul. Just goes to show ya greed kills the best of ideas.

BtmnHatesRbn
BtmnHatesRbn

For those not familiar with the law, only a defendant has the Right to an appeal. A plaintiff can't seek appeal. When a plaintiff does, as seen in Federal courts and even the Supreme Court, the case is thrown out on "technicality". But I suspect most of you never studied nor practiced law, or ever consulted an attorney.

necronaux
necronaux

I'm sure they'll appeal. Don't they get it? The more people playing the 'fake' Gibsons, the more likely some of them, if they got a 'real' guitar, would select their's. I'm surprized that Activision isn't suing Gibson for advertising fees.

AstroChimp83
AstroChimp83

No more plastic instruments with your name all over them Gibson. Should have just been happy that you got a chance to be in over a million living rooms around the world but then you had to get lawsuit happy.

emacdaddy08
emacdaddy08

@Judge_Judy, i have to hand it to you because you do actually seem to know what your talking about, that does sounds like a pretty nice Ibanez you've got. The neck is a little fat, but thats good for people who like to play lead or arpegiatte. and the heaviness i always found to be a good thing, playing guitars that are too light (such as some strats') almost makes it feel like i'm playing a toy, i think thats all just personal taste though. as for reliability, i can honestly say i've never had any problems, or heard of any from the people i know that play gibson guitars, but thats not to say they don't have their issues, no guitar is perfect without a crap load of tweaking to your personal taste.

Bones12x2
Bones12x2

I dont get this. I would understand if Activision had just decided on their own to use the Explorer body style (cuase it looks exactly like one). But didn't they team up with Gibson for that sole purpose? I feel like the story is missing some explinations.

zaveline
zaveline

WHA!??? why is Gibson going to Sue Activision!? they made all the guitars for the guitar hero games What The Hell is going on!?

otanikun
otanikun

There wasn't any point in going for the suit to begin with, they wasted untold millions right there, good going Gibson.

VenomRitual
VenomRitual

@chunkstein lol i thought the same thing. i can play a keyboard on my ipod, does this mean im violating Gibson's patent? >.

Chunkstein
Chunkstein

"Gibson would have this Court determine that any device that controls something that produces musical sounds is covered by the '405 Patent." bahahaha.. aww Gibson, you're so silly!

sentencer
sentencer

Looks like people are hard up for cash now-a-days. It's really a sad move on Gibson's part.

Onsfan
Onsfan

You serious now!? Gibson, your money and time is better spend making better guitars.

nomino88
nomino88

haha seems like the gibsons want a share of the guitarhero pie :D

McDog3
McDog3

I had completely forgot about this case. I'm glad it got thrown out, it seemed like a pretty worthless lawsuit to me.

PredatorRules
PredatorRules

Guitar Heros' guitar is a toy, from what I see Activision could make it in any shape they f**k want to

xbox4life76
xbox4life76

My girlfriend is a patent clerk and she hears this stuff all the time and tells me people sue for anything that may resemble their product...everyone looking for extra cash i guess....

SpareJesus
SpareJesus

fooqotsa: It does however say that they were going to sue Rock Band for their controller too. "So adamant was the six-string-supplier about its claims that it threatened legal action in a Tennessee court against retailers who sold Guitar Hero games ." However, that was simply due to the 'interactive controller' thing, and not, as you said, about the Gibson brand controller shape. Nevertheless, they going to sue because of the Rock Band controller too.