“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Guitar Hero Sues Gibson over Patent

by March 17, 2008
Gibson Hero?

Gibson Hero?

This one's a little like watching cousins sue each other in court, but Gibson Guitar Inc has told Activision Inc that its wildly popular Guitar Hero video games infringes one of their 1999 patents which deals with simulating a musical performance. And no, Gibson didn't patent air-guitar. Last week, Activision filed a lawsuit, asking a U.S. court to find the claim invalid and bar Gibson from seeking any damages.

What makes this so weird is that Gibson's Les Paul is the model for the game's newest wireless guitar. This is the premier guitar controller which has the ability to handle various skins. For Gibson to suddenly say "Oh by the way your game is in violation of one of our patents" is a major shock considering the relationship. Gibson has been a high-profile partner in the Guitar Hero games, with Activision licensing the rights to model its controllers on Gibson guitar models and to use their likenesses in the actual gameplay.

According to Activision's lawyers: "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."

At the time of the Reuters report, Gibson had not made an official comment.

According to the Gibson patent, which can be viewed online, some of the claims include:

A system for electronically simulating participation by a user in a pre-recorded musical performance comprising:

a. a musical instrument, the musical instrument generating an instrument audio signal at an instrument audio output, the instrument audio signal varying in response to operation of the instrument by the user of the system;
b. a video source providing a source video signal at a source video output, the source video signal representing a video portion of the pre-recorded musical performance;
c. a video display responsive to the source video signal whereby the user can view the video portion of the pre-recorded musical performance on the video display;
d. an audio source providing a source audio signal at a source audio output, the source audio signal representing an audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance, the audio portion including an instrument sound track containing pre-recorded musical sounds that would be generated by the musical instrument in the pre-recorded musical performance;
e. a system interface device having a first audio input electrically connected to the instrument audio output, a second audio input electrically connected to the source audio output, and a first interface audio output;
f. the system interface device including a source audio control circuit responsive to the instrument audio signal, whereby a characteristic of the source audio signal is controlled in response to operation of the musical instrument by the user to provide a controlled source audio signal at the first interface audio output; and
g. an audio playback transducer responsive to the controlled source audio signal such that the user can listen to the audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance on the transducer, in synchronization with the video portion.

The letter submitted by Gibson's law firm states: "Based on our preliminary analysis, the 'Guitar Hero' software (including any expansion packs) and the guitar controller provided by Activision being used as a musical instrument (packaged with the software or sold standalone) are covered by the... patent... Gibson requests that Activision obtain a license under Gibson's patent or halt sales of any version of the 'Guitar Hero' game software."

Activision is maintaining that its games do not infringe Gibson's patent, and that the three years the company delayed raising its claim pretty much implies permission or an implied license to use any patented technology.

About the author:
author portrait

Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

View full profile

Recent Forum Posts:

Seth=L posts on March 17, 2008 12:23
stratman, post: 389146
Gibson isn't what it use to be. Neither is Fender.
Poor, hard working cavmen just can't get good quality guitars for cheap anymore.
stratman posts on March 17, 2008 12:09
Gibson isn't what it use to be. Neither is Fender.
j_garcia posts on March 17, 2008 11:55
It does seem odd that they would grant permission on one aspect and then sue them on another, after the fact.

Gibson is one of my company's customers.
Clint DeBoer posts on March 17, 2008 10:59
Is there a word that combines aspects of incest and masochism? Cause that's what this feels like to me. Let's license your guitar for use with our game… and then you can issue a letter seeking compensation for a patent violation… and then we can be forced to sue you.

Are we having fun yet?
birdonthebeach posts on March 17, 2008 10:09
I have filed my Les Paul wii controller into the shape of a Strat in protest….
Post Reply