Konami sues Viacom over Rock Band

[UPDATE] Japanese publisher claims Harmonix-developed multi-instrument hit violated its "musical rhythm-matching game" patents, reports Bloomberg; MTV responds.

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Nearly a decade ago, Konami released the first installments in the DrumMania and Guitar Freaks series, which used drum and guitar peripherals. Though neither franchise was a huge hit, the Japanese publisher did sell millions of its dozen-plus Karaoke Revolution games worldwide.

Given Konami's primogeniture in the instrument and karaoke genres, the publisher was likely none too happy when developer Harmonix combined drums, guitars, and singing into one game--Rock Band. Since its release last November, the MTV Games-published, Electronic Arts-distributed title has sold more than 3 million $179 bundles and more than 10 million song downloads. MTV's parent, Viacom, went as far as to name-check the game in its annual earnings report in May, crediting it with increased profits.

Now, it appears Konami is expressing its displeasure in legal form. According to a report on the Bloomberg news service, this week the Japanese publisher filed suit in a Marshall, Texas, court against Harmonix, MTV Networks, and Viacom. Its suit claims that Rock Band violates a series of US Patents registered in 2002 and 2003 relating to "simulated musical instruments" and "musical rhythm-matching game."

Bloomberg's report did not outline what Konami wanted in terms of compensation from the suit. However, the legal action's timing comes shortly after the announcement of Rock Band 2 and Rock Band: Japan as well as the release of Rock Band: Special Edition for the Wii. It also comes less than two months after Konami announced its own peripheral-based, guitar-drum-vocal title, Rock Revolution, due out later this year.

[UPDATE] Unsurprisingly, MTV Games and Harmonix will not be taking the suit lying down. "Konami's actions are extremely surprising," an MTV representative told the company's Multiplayer gaming blog. "Unfortunately, successful products such as Rock Band can often become targets for baseless litigation. We have substantial defenses to this claim and intend to vigorously defend it."

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