Gibson encores patent suit to Rock Band

Instrument maker's quest to have Activision's Guitar Hero pulled from store shelves extended to include EA, MTV, and Harmonix's latest four-piece rhythm game.


Although Harmonix moved on from the Guitar Hero series after wrapping development on Rocks the 80s, Gibson Guitar Inc. hasn't forgotten the developer's involvement in putting the rhythm genre on the map. In the latest twist in Gibson's ongoing patent spat with the billion-dollar rhythm game genre, the guitar manufacturer has filed a patent-infringement suit against Guitar Hero and Rock Band creators Harmonix and its publishing partners Electronic Arts and MTV Networks.

Thursday's filing is the latest development in Gibson's quest to continue to cash in on the burgeoning rhythm game genre. In January, Gibson notified Activision that the Guitar Hero franchise was in violation of a patent the guitar manufacturer filed in 1999. Reminiscent of virtual-reality setups as envisioned in the '90s, Gibson's patent calls for a "head-mounted 3D display that includes stereo speakers" by which musicians can simulate a concert using an instrument. As per the patent, the prerecorded concert would play while musicians accompany the concert on their own instruments.

Following Gibson's request for Activision to either license the device or cease sales of Guitar Hero products, Activision filed suit with the US District Court of Central California to invalidate Gibson's patent and prevent the guitar maker from seeking damages. As grounds for its suit, Activision claimed that Gibson's suit was motivated by the publisher cutting its marketing and support agreement, and also noted that Gibson's three-year delay in not pursuing the patent has granted Activision an implied license. Gibson responded to the suit last week by attempting to force the publisher's hand, taking to court many retailers who sell Guitar Hero products in an attempt to yank the game off of store shelves.

Gibson has yet to file any formal complaint against Activision, a spokesperson representing the publisher confirmed for GameSpot.

Gibson isn't waiting to drop the gloves with Activision's former partner on Guitar Hero, given that the guitar maker challenged EA, MTV, and Harmonix on Thursday in the US District Court of Middle Tennessee over the Guitar Hero franchise through Rocks the 80s, as well as Rock Band. According to the suit, Harmonix and its distribution partners are infringing on Gibson's aforementioned patent, and the guitar maker is seeking an injunction that would halt the sale of the Harmonix-created products as well as award damages and legal expenses.

In a statement addressing the suit, Gibson said, "This new lawsuit relates to the same US patent involved in the lawsuit filed by Gibson Guitar recently against various retailers in the same court. Gibson Guitar had made good faith efforts to enter into a patent license agreement with the defendants in this case. The defendants have not responded in a timely manner with an intent to enter into negotiations for a patent license agreement. Gibson Guitar had no alternative but to bring the suit, and it will continue to protect its intellectual property rights against any and all infringing persons."

EA, MTV, and Harmonix were quick to respond to the allegations. "This lawsuit is completely without merit and we intend to defend [against] it vigorously," said a Harmonix spokesperon in a statement. "Gibson's patent, filed nearly 10 years ago, required a 3D display, a real musical instrument, and a recording of a concert. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are completely different: among other things they are games, require no headset, and use a controller only shaped like a real instrument. It is unfortunate that Gibson unfairly desires to share in the tremendous success enjoyed by the developers of Rock Band and Guitar Hero."

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Avatar image for vbdude006

Ok....i don't know who to agree with here....i love guitar her but i also play real guitar....anywa i gotta agree with Raykuza cuz gibsonwill make les sales. Honestly, i'm buying a gibson but this has got nothing to do with guitar hero.....i was also disappointed since u coulnt play a fender(amazing guitars) but of course for legal reasons with rockband' licence. Honestly.....gibson has got my vote PUT SOME FREAKIN FENDER INTO GH4......i pre-ordered it goddammit!!!!!!!!

Avatar image for Rex369

I love Gibson but they are being total a$$holes. TO dropandgiveme5 the lady that sued McDonalds really didn't get any money.

Avatar image for dropandgiveme5

Woman sues McDonalds for spilling hot coffee on herself and wins. Woman sues Elizabeth Arden Salon for supposed bad hair treatment, which somehow caused depression leading to counselling - wins. Also, in Orlando, the estate of a woman killed by a drunk driver sued the rental car company that rented the car involved in the crash to an Irish tourist. In her claim she stated that the rental car company should have been more careful when renting cars to the Irish because the Irish are drunks. I can see Gibson winning this one....

Avatar image for Ultima-Chocochu

Reminds me of that stupid band that sued....Says they can use it, then bam, they want the money the game makes after it's released. They planned it.

Avatar image for Ultima-Chocochu

Reminds me of that stupid band that sued....Says they can use it, then bam, they want the money the game makes after it's released. I think Gibson planned it, waited a while after GHIII was released, and waited to see how much it'd sell then acted.

Avatar image for edub272

i wont blame gibson.. if it werent for them we wouldnt have the SG and Les Paul shaped controllers lol

Avatar image for chavi03

OMG raykuza ur filled with **** the people at gibson are just **** losers they waited 5 years then finally pulled their head out of their asses and stole guitar heros income. Gibson = ****ting ****

Avatar image for Raykuza

@GuitarHero171 No, putting Gibson's name on a fake guitar wont make anyone want to buy a real guitar. Most people would ratherspend a few minutes learning to play Guitar Hero than take the years of practise needed to become good at a real instrument. In fact, I wouldn't be suprised if guitar sales have decreased because of guitar games. This is probably why Gibson wants Activision and Harmonix to lisence their name so that Gibson can make money for every sale of a fake guitar, since they aren't selling any real guitars... I love Guitar Hero but I gotta side with Gibson on this one.

Avatar image for GuitarHero171

What the F*** is gibson's problem!? Guitar hero (One of the greatest games ever) decides to put gibson as thier guitar lable,( which most likely made more people want to buy gibson guitars, which in turn would make gibson more money) and now gibson wants to try and put them out of business? this makes absolutely no sense and they have no case. their basically screwing themselves over

Avatar image for bush66

There's only one problem with this lawsuit. GH uses a CONTROLLER not a musical INSTRUMENT.

Avatar image for the_greenzero

Oh well, I still like their guitars.

Avatar image for crisiscorefan52

gibson cmon

Avatar image for wiiplay1

gibson has issues

Avatar image for slayer2010

wtf gibson is being friggin rediculous

Avatar image for mav_destroyer

wow thats dumb, don't these people have anything better to do? (referring to gibson)

Avatar image for dsplayer1010

it makes sense. gibson gives them permission to use their guitars, and then when they make a lot of money they sue them

Avatar image for Taldaran1

I already have all the instruments I need so i am not too worried about this affecting cost any. The games themselves won't go about 59.99 so it really does not matter. It may push individual instruments up some though. Plus, if they were going to sue, they should have done it before they allowed the makers to put the Gibson name on it. They screwed themselves with that.

Avatar image for Beeker1

Who's gonna buy Rock Band it costs $170 believe me buy Guitar Hero its maby not better than Rock Band but still........... $170 OMG!!

Avatar image for Frenoir

they have no case with either one for 1 guitar hero is sponserd by gibson and several of the componies owned by gibson and for another rock band uses 3 instruments and a persons voice so sorry gibson but you have no case

Avatar image for ItsRichie


Avatar image for CMJR

Wow. Totally lame. Yeah, the guitar hero series has been around frickin' forever now... Where were you then, Gibson? Waiting to see if it'd make any money before you filed your suit? How timely of you.

Avatar image for JED_Saje

um where have u been gibson??? the moon for the past 5 years didnt u see guitar hero1 ?!

Avatar image for AcrobaticMonkey

Sad and pathetic basterds

Avatar image for Agulf

Great statement. Gibson, you got no case here, sorry.

Avatar image for mattz721721

Ahahaha, what a bunch of whiny **** Gibson are. Why not try something that doesn't make you look like a MAJOR **** Oh well. Petty insignificant people try to make money off of petty, insignificant things.

Avatar image for anzelm

Very sad indeed!

Avatar image for Hector_01

After reading this article it seems that gibson have absolutely no case at all. They are just trying to cash in on guitar hero and rock bands success and to be honest, i think its pretty sad.

Avatar image for Gwaelin

Gibson has gone completely rabid. It's time to put them down. They don't even have a legal leg to stand on in any of their 1,001 lawsuits out right now, yet they insist on wasting boatloads of money (theirs and the "accused", and that waste will most likely trickle down to affect our money as well) trying to push it.

Avatar image for mcuth

Maxwellmurder... you're right about Ibanez, etc. My problem w/Gibson is that you have to play about 10 of a given model to find a killer one. The thing that makes an electric great or not is (most importantly) its acoustic sound (all the other stuff is changeable). Most Gibsons sound like plastic... some are killer. These days the actual craftsmanship behind them is pretty dang good (following a period of 10 years or so when they made crap). It's a well-built product for a decent price. It's just that, for whatever reason, a lot of their mahogany sounds like plastic (too strong of a spike in the high mids). (And like you, I'm a strat junky. That's my home. I play James Tyler strats, not Fenders.)

Avatar image for connorb93

I have no problem with Gibson as a guitar maker, but this lawsuit is just bullcrap. Here, Gibson just wants to steal the thunder and get in on all the money flowing into Guitar Hero. their patent doesn't apply, and hopefully they'll lose the case without stealing any of GH's money or hurting their products.

Avatar image for Maxwellmurder

I have to do this, to many trash talkers on Gibson here, i own a Fender not a Gibson but thats my personal preference, if i could i would have a Gibson sound with a Fender feel but that is hard to accomplish. Stop saying Gibson sucks and oh my god Gibson wants MOULAz. Everyone wants money world is based on it, these games were made for money, simple fact its their job. GIBSON IS AN EXTREMELY WELL KNOWN GUITAR MAKER THAT MAKES EXTREMELY HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTS! BETTER THAN YOUR **** IBANEZ OR ESP! Go play a gibson and see what i mean. You dont like them then shut your mouth and go play a plastic guitar with 5 buttons.

Avatar image for GamerErman2001

Gibson wants BIG BUCKS for NO REASON!

Avatar image for smbius

Gibson just screwed over their branding

Avatar image for kegmiester

talk about trying to get a share of the milk and cream from the cash cow... Oh well, its expected i guess. Now if gibson just BOTHERED to carry out the idea into development they might be making millions. Hopefully it won't escalate into anything worse.

Avatar image for z3dd1cu5

This is so rediculous. The sad part is they will probably settle.

Avatar image for ngboy

someone suing someone? what else is new...... gibson's description of their "idea" is so vague, this lawsuit holds no water.

Avatar image for JamesSharp

Patents are a way for protecting people who have an idea so that it can't just be stolen. Your original ideas are your property. That's a good thing. Gibson is full of crap. They know that their patent doesn't apply, they're just looking for a payday. They don't have a case and it will be sorted out.

Avatar image for SeymoreHunter

Patents are just ways of monopolizing ideas, trying to earn huge amounts of cash trough lawsuits. Why are software pantents permitted when other monopolies are seen as bad by the market loving US? I've never figured that out. They don't do anything to stimulate inventing and only cause law suits. By the way, how can one claim to OWN an idea, a thought? Isn't that pretty stupid to begin with?

Avatar image for Zerosumgame

A fantastic patent suit, I want to see them off shelves as well.

Avatar image for Krazy-K

If Gibson knew that they had a patent on something similar ( very questionable) to what Guitar Hero and Rock Band does before they can out, WHY would you allow them to use you name brands and THEN wait this long to file a lawsuit! Plus Gibson's patent is NOTHING like Guitar Hero OR Rock Band!

Avatar image for dmish82

My problem with suing over patents is that it was intended to protect people with creative ideas that think of new innovative ideas. This is a good thing, it really is. The problem here is that some people try to stretch the limits of their patents to cover ideas they hadn't originally thought of.

Avatar image for Chief_Kuuni

well you just need to make money one way or another

Avatar image for Merl57

This is atrocious. This seems to be a growing trend in America to sue people over worthless issues just to get extra money. The original patent by Gibson for their idea with some sort of computer/instrument program is completely different from Guitar Hero and Rock Band. It is not even close. Not only that this idea is not so farfetched that no one has thought of it before. Hell before I read about this mess I had the idea after playing guitar hero that eventually you could just plug in your electric guitar with the cable that usually goes in the amp into the videogame box itself. And OH NO!!! I had the same idea that Gibson has. Does that mean that I specifically spied in at their meetings or stole the copy out of the patent office photo copied it and then came up with this idea? No. Gibson cannot prove that Harmonix or Activision did any of that either. And oh yeah did anyone think that their timing on cashing in on the success was just a wee bit suspicious. If there was a real problem they should have been up in arms when the first GH for Playstation came out

Avatar image for hoverboy

@lakeerie_effect: Based on your line of reasoning, should they stop making war games so people can stop pretending to be in the armed forces, and instead go out and participate in a real war? How about driving games? With your reasoning, we should stop playing racing games and go hit the streets @ 180 MPH? Sports games? Stop playing Madden and go try out for the NFL? Just because someone plays a rhythm game doesn't mean that they are musically inclined enough to play as good as the game simulation lets you play. Thats why we play them; because we get to see and do things that some of us otherwise might not ever do, or be very good at in real life. They're not meant to replace the real thing, thats why they call them games.

Avatar image for MetalMan300

So guitar hero and rock band promote gibson, and gibson decides to try to get even more money now that they've realized that they could get a ton of money for it. Sad. Oh and timstuff, I wouldn't doubt it :)

Avatar image for mellomr

After seeing this nonsense from Gibson these past few days I am glad and proud to say that I don't play one for real. I play on a B.C. Rich. For a person like myself that enjoys playing guitar (for real) and video games this has left a bad taste in my mouth. Where is Gibson's innovation? They are just going to get lazy and try to leech on to somone else's success?? The way this patent is described it is not even close to what Harmonix and Red Octane have come up with. I think someone is pissy because maybe Red Octane might have told them they don't want to use a Gibson likeness on the controller anymore, but I'm just speculating on that.

Avatar image for Hades_30

I fell down the stairs, and my shoes fell off . . . Sue everybody!

Avatar image for BoobyUnger

always try to find the ez way out they do! Lazy pos cant even earn his own money has to steal from others

Avatar image for NA3D

Gibson needs to get the heck over it, if it takes them this long to bring a suit it means that they are just trying to cash in on it. Just by filing this suit they are damaging their Rep. so they need to shut the heck up before people start to actually take EA's side on something for once. Either way, Gibson should have filed suit the day the game released, the day someone put Gibson's name on one of the controllers, or at least with in a month or two. Taking this long proves they need to back down before getting bit, and EA and Activision will throw out the cash to not only bite, but bite hard. (Following EA lately, they might just buy Gibson to shut them up, haha j/k.)

Avatar image for lakeerie_effect

glad gibson is doing this. i hope they run all these games outta business then these kids will actually have to learn how to play a real guitar instead of a 5 colored piece of plastic, while wasting away indoors infront of a tv