RedOctane sues guitar manufacturer

Guitar Hero publisher and parent company Activision bring legal action to bear against the maker of an unlicensed line of controllers for the popular game.

Before it was the $100 million publisher of Guitar Hero, RedOctane was best known for making unlicensed third-party peripherals for incredibly successful rhythm games like Konami's Dance Dance Revolution. But now that it's the company with an incredibly successful game, RedOctane is taking a second look at those making unlicensed peripherals for its premiere franchise.

Last month, RedOctane and new parent company Activision filed suit against The Ant Commandos, a Chino, California-based company selling a lineup of wired and wireless guitar controllers for use with the PlayStation 2 edition of Guitar Hero. The companies allege that The Ant Commandos are guilty of a litany of offenses, including unfair competition, trademark infringement, copyright infringement, unfair and deceptive trade practices, false advertising, unjust enrichment, and more. The suit also names Hong Lip Yow as a defendant, saying The Ant Commandos is a shell company and that for all intents and purposes, he and the company are one and the same.

"Specifically, Defendants have copied the packaging of Plaintiffs' products and have used Plaintiffs' trademarks and copyrighted material in its packaging and advertising of its own products in an effort to cause confusion among consumers," the suit reads.

Where the official Guitar Hero package has the game's name in white, Gothic letters outlined in black on top of a background of flames, one of The Ant Company's controllers comes with the words "Guitar Mania" in white, Gothic letters outlined in black on top of a background of flames, the suit noted. It goes on to point out that one of the Ant Company offerings also comes with flame and skull-and-crossbones stickers for players to customize their guitars, much like the real Guitar Hero controller.

RedOctane and Activision are also taking exception to The Ant Company's claims that the controllers are fully compatible with Guitar Hero on the PS2. They allege that the controller doesn't interface properly with the game, and that tilting the controller up to activate "star power" in the game doesn't work consistently. The companies are asking a judge to rule that The Ant Company can no longer make, advertise, or sell the guitars, that it recall the guitars it has already sold, and that it turn over all materials associated with the guitars for destruction. As for monetary relief, Activision is asking for all of The Ant Company's profits, as well as damages and attorney's fees.

This suit marks a turning of legal tables for RedOctane. While it is on the plaintiff's side of this case, it has been the defendant in a pair of other recent cases. Last year, Konami filed suit against the company for selling the dance game In the Groove, claiming it infringed on patents it held with its Dance Dance Revolution series.

Earlier this year, a company called KnuckleBonz filed suit against RedOctane, claiming that it had the trademark to the Guitar Hero name. KnuckleBonz has been manufacturing guitar-themed collectible sculptures under the Guitar Hero name since 2003, though it only registered it with the US Patent and Trademark Office in September of 2005. Last month a judge denied RedOctane's request to have that case dismissed.

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Discussion

110 comments
fartys
fartys

I think guitar hero is great and so is the Gibson sg controller that can be bought especially for the game but i have to admit the guitar mania flying v controller kicks the sg 's fat a*se. The changeable covers are especially cool, red octane could learn a lot from guitar mania, if red octane had made good looking and wireless guitars in the first place there wouldn't be any of this trouble now would there?

need4spizzle
need4spizzle

I liked the guitar mania guitars better than the SG.

Dr_Swordopolis
Dr_Swordopolis

Do they not realize that Guitar Mania has been a hit game in Japan for more than a few years???

spacem0nkey91
spacem0nkey91

The SG controllers are trash, i really like the idea of the flying V's tho, i think RO should just buy Ant Company and keep selling the Flying V's. its better to choose your guitar rather that sticking with a crappy SG :\ they should also make Goth Explorers now that would be sweet

_Sam_
_Sam_

I didn't hear about this before now

thewarriors26
thewarriors26

Its not red octane, its actvision, I dunno but pretty sure RO doesnt care

Halo2_Norad
Halo2_Norad

My Shreddar, and Wirless Flying V are going to get very expensive if RO wins. They are all goiong to be recalled and destroyed and I'm going to keep mine. I smell Ebay...

Sir_Crocidile
Sir_Crocidile

Heh I own one of those. Yes the box looks RIDICULOUSLY similar to the official stuff. When I bought it I was pretty sure it couldn't be legal as it was way to similar, however, their wireless controller is much better then the official (at least for me). Not sure where they are getting the tilting problem however as it works fine for me.

Gamer6534
Gamer6534

well that sucks for The Ant Commandos, it's a shame because they had some pretty cool looking controllers.

gatewaygal01
gatewaygal01

Sad that ant commando will go down, but darn their guitars look WAY cooler!!! I love the different skins!

SteveTwo
SteveTwo

Mmmmm.... Delicious Ironing... :-D The irony isn't half-bad either! Try it with the salsa.

kabuki_tanooki
kabuki_tanooki

oh. so now that Red Octane has Activision...they want to shut the little guys down? what hypocracy. booooooooooooo! red octane. may people sue you for causing carpal tunnel syndrome brought on by playing Bark at The Moon on expert!

SpareJesus
SpareJesus

Well, if this is Red Octane's doing, then I hope Konami manages to sue them (again) for making 3rd Party DDR periphials, and for taking the premise of a guitar game. And I hope KnuckleBonz sue them for infringement of the name. Har. If this is Activision's doing, I hope they die a painful death for being so damned arrogant about it. And I agree with the below poster; The ironing delicious. I'll still be buying GH2, either way. ^_^

ra7krz
ra7krz

that sux, those wireless guitars kick major ass, RedOctane, you changed,

soadnick947
soadnick947

Don't let all the fame go to your head RedOctane, but that would never happen, would it? ;-)

Soldier_Shadow
Soldier_Shadow

im positive that if Activision didnt buy RedOctane, this suit would have never been filed. They are just making alternate guitars and I doubt RedOctane would have a problem, but Activision is the mind and the a**holes behind this lawsuit.

Orlandun
Orlandun

Although i have a feeling this is more Activisions doing then Red Octane I find this to be a horrible act of hypocrasy. But all you people screaming your not going to buy GH 2 over this to me is just childish

audioslave69
audioslave69

Hypocrits. Just for this I aint gettin' GH II

Techno_Burn
Techno_Burn

What idiots... I don't know if they are by this company or not, but all the third party controllers i've seen are works of art compared to Red Octanes pathetic SG copy!

liversnot
liversnot

i do not really agree with what red octane is doing, however i am sure activision has something to do with it too. look at the other part of the people who had something to do with the game, harmonix, frequency and amplitude were great games, guitar hero is only a natural progression from that point on, and even though i have not played guitar freaks, based on the sountracks from past konami games, (DDR, beatmania, more DDR....) i doubt the guitar freaks soundtrack is really anything to get excited over. guitar hero on the other hand...and even better guitar hero 2.

Felys
Felys

Funny how Red Octane sues for a practice that their own company was based on for years....making 3rd party music game accessories... hypocrites..

Ehllee
Ehllee

The ironing is delicious

sdcseg
sdcseg

This is just sad. I love GH, but with this I really might not even buy GHII. They do have some points with the branding and the stickers, but they are asking way too much. What they should really be doing is partnering with this company and bringing the value to the customer. What is probably really happening is that GHII will have a wireless option and RO is scared that this might detract from sales. Every so lame RO. Shame on you.

SuperH75mil
SuperH75mil

Aw, come on RedOctane! Don't **** things up now! Unlicensed peripherals, when they don't suck, bring joy to us all! If it weren't for your third-party, $99 RedOctane dance pads, I would never have gotten even halfway decent at DDR. Besides, although I can't imagine they'd work too well, those wireless Guitar Mania controllers look sweet. They're the flying V shape (kinda'), and one of them is BLUE. Mmm, sweet blue. EDIT: For those who've said they own one...do they work well? 'Cause I'd get one when GHII comes out if they do.

Toribor
Toribor

So, Red Octane is suing a company for doing the exact same thing that red octane has been doing for years just because now they are the man and The Ant Commando is the little guy?

tonyleo01
tonyleo01

I hope Konami take a dip in on thisWell. While the guitar from Guitar Hero has more functionality (5 frat button instead of 3) than Guitar Freak, it doesn't really change the fact that they're kind of stole Konami Idea.

VFG
VFG

Oh, so it's okay to rip off products from the other guy as long as he doesn't do it to you, right?

shasam712
shasam712

Ouch, Red Octane are asking for alot...

Striker426
Striker426

Those Ant guitars suck, don't bother with them. Just stick with the SG. As for the "Guitar Hero" name, well, who had it first or who registered it first? Can't we all just get along?

K1LLSWITCH
K1LLSWITCH

Sounds like one giant rumble royale. I prefer to watch this from a distance.

taisui
taisui

Guitar Hero is a rip-off from Konami's Guitar Freak!!!

Erebus
Erebus

Activision/RedOctane will lose. Money will be wasted, and fans will be jilted. Drop your case before it's too late.

syx
syx

Big guy ****ting on the little guy? Or just trade practices? Settle it out of court in RedOctane's new game, Law Hero!

joeamis
joeamis

Based on the info presented in this article, it is clear that RO has a legitimate case.

OdinDragoonX
OdinDragoonX

Guitar Hero..no thanks, the controller is cheaper then dirt

RahKayne
RahKayne

If you haven't played guitar hero, you can say !@$*

chibi-acer
chibi-acer

The lawsuit is based on the idea that the competitor is marketing their product too similar to the official GH ones, with a similar look, logo, and name. They claim people will buy it thinking it's an official product and are being misled. It's like when people make cheap TVs and label them "Somy" or "Penasonic".

ThumbsUpMaster
ThumbsUpMaster

So they can copy DDR but no one else can copy them.... right....

CitizenSwift
CitizenSwift

Shame on you GameSpot. You know very well that Harmonix *developed* Guitar Hero.

Dninex
Dninex

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

FoxHoundADAM
FoxHoundADAM

Anyone who doubts the greatness of GH has no idea what they are missing out on. In fact I managed to the biggest fanboy in Xbox history to play it (he refuses to play PS2 games no matter what). He liked it so much he is dying for the 360 to get a version later on.

Vyse86
Vyse86

Didn't Gamespot give away some of those as prizes? "Air Guitar Just Got Sicker!!" Wasn't that an Ant Commandos product?