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Activision Asks Court to Invalidate Gibson’s Guitar Hero Patent Claims

Categories: Controller CasesPatent CasesRoyalty Disputes

Text of Activision Complaint Seeking Declaratory Relief (March 11, 2008)
Text of Patent No. 5,990,405 (November 23, 1999)

Activision has a long-standing license to use guitar-maker Gibson’s trademarks in its Guitar Hero video game franchise.

Gibson owns a hitherto unknown and unenforced patent ’405 (A System and method for generating and controlling a simulated musical concert experience) and claimed in a letter sent to Activision in January, that the Guitar Hero franchise, expansion packs and controllers infringe this patent. In the letter Gibson sought royalty payments from Activision:

Gibson requests that Activision obtain a license under Gibson’s … patent or halt sales of any version of the Guitar Hero game software.

In response, Activision has filed a preemptive lawsuit in the District Court for Central California asking the court, among other things, to invalidate Gibson’s patent claims and to bar it from seeking damages.

The abstract of Gibson’s patent no. 5,990,405 reads as follows:

A musician can simulate participation in a concert by playing a musical instrument and wearing a head-mounted 3D display that includes stereo speakers. Audio and video portions of a musical concert are pre-recorded, along with a separate sound track corresponding to the musical instrument played by the musician. Playback of the instrument sound track is controlled by signals generated in the musical instrument and transmitted to a system interface box connected to the audio-video play back device, an audio mixer, and the head-mounted display. An external bypass switch allows the musician to suppress the instrument sound track so that the sounds created by actual playing of the musical instrument are heard along with the pre-recorded audio and video portions.

Sources: Gamasutra | Next Generation 1 | Next Generation 2 | GameSpot | InformationWeek | engadget | Joystiq | MacWorld | Wall Street Journal | CNet | Yahoo! News (Reuters)

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