Gibson Xploring Guitar Hero patent infringement

Longtime supporter of Activision's best-selling rhythm franchise claims game violates patent filed in 1999 for "technology for simulating a musical performance."


Last year, Activision discovered that its $100 million purchase of RedOctane in 2006 had paid off in spades, with the publisher touting the fact that the Guitar Hero franchise had shifted 14 million-plus units in North America alone and aggregated revenue of more than $1 billion in the process. A mountain of cash that high doesn't go without notice, however, and the publisher has been fending off lawsuits concerning the franchise seemingly around every corner.

In the second suit concerning Guitar Hero to surface for the week, longtime RedOctane partner Gibson Guitar Inc. has made an appeal to Activision claiming patent infringement, reports Reuters. In a letter sent to Activision in January, Gibson claims Guitar Hero infringes on one of its patents granted in 1999 for "technology for simulating a musical performance." The patent, a copy of which was included in Activision's court filing, details a method for using instruments to simulate a live performance, and provides for a 3D headset with stereo speakers and a prerecorded concert.

Gibson has licensed the use of its guitars as controllers and in-game items for Guitar Hero since the first installment in the franchise debuted in 2005. Most recently, Activision licensed nine different Gibson guitars to appear in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, as well as modeled its controller after the company's popular Les Paul. According to the letter sent to Activision, Reuters reports that Gibson is requesting that the publisher "obtain a license under Gibson's...patent or halt sales of any version of the 'Guitar Hero' game software."

Unsurprisingly, Reuters reports that Activision has asked the US District Court of Central California to throw out Gibson's suit and prevent the guitar maker from seeking damages. In a statement issued to GameSpot, Activision general counsel George Rose said, "Gibson is a good partner, and we have a great deal of respect for them. We disagree with the applicability of their patent and would like a legal determination on this." Reuters also noted that even were the patent upheld, Gibson's three-year dalliance has granted Activision an implied license for the use of the technology.

Gibson had not responded to GameSpot's requests for comment as of press time.

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