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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.

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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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