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March 13, 2008

Guitar Hero

Gibson, the electric guitar maker, owns 5,990,405, claiming a system for simulating user participation in a pre-recorded musical performance, much like Activision's "Guitar Hero" game, a billion-dollar hit in North America alone, selling 16 million copies. Activision got a letter from Gibson in January, which had it hip-hop a DJ in LA. That's cool jive for filing a declaratory judgment motion in the Central District of California, seeking to invalidate the patent.

Gibson has been a prominent licensing partner for the Guitar Hero game series. The latest version, Guitar Hero III, features a controller shaped as a Gibson guitar, either the Les Paul or Kramer Striker model.

Gibson apparently didn't have the current songbook on patent litigation. Since the Supreme Court MedImmune ruling early last year, and the subsequent CAFC Sandisk decision, DJ motions can be filed after humming a few notes of the infringement blues. Activision wrote Gibson on Monday that it didn't infringe, and wasn't interested a license. The next day it dropped dime on the patent.

In related Guitar Hero news, Viacom-owned Harmonix Music Systems, developer of the first two Guitar Hero games, sued Activision over a royalties spat, to the tune of $14.5 million; then withdrew the suit; also in LA. Why the suit was withdrawn remains a mystery.

This report from a composite of motley mainstream news reports. Alas, I don't have a copy of the Activision complaint.

Posted by Patent Hawk at March 13, 2008 8:15 PM | Declaratory Judgment


Do you think the term "musical instrument" in the genus claim would preclude infringement of this claim by Guitar Hero, where a musical instrument is not used--rather a mock-up of one? The claim even suggests that the "musical instrument is generating an audio signal. Would a non-functional representation of a musical instrument then be obvious? What if Guitar hero had a user playing a banana?

Posted by: Rich at March 20, 2008 6:21 AM