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Category — Controller Cases

Gibson Sues MTV, EA & Harmonix over Guitar Patent

Categories: Controller CasesPatent CasesRoyalty Disputes

Text of MTV/EA/Harmonix Complaint (March 20, 2008)
Text Patent No. 5,990,405 (November 23, 1999)

After “good faith efforts to enter into a patent license agreement”, and subsequent yesterday’s filing of law suits against Activision’s Guitar Hero retailers, Gibson has filed another patent infringement suit against MTV, EA & Harmonix in the Federal District Court in Tennessee. Gibson owns patent no. 5,990,405.

Gibson claims Harmonix infringed its patent as the developer of Guitar Hero 1 and 2 (now published by Activision – previously published by RedOctane). After Harmonix parted ways with RedOctane, it was purchased by MTV. Harmonix subsequently developed the successful video game – Rock Band. EA distributes the game. Gibson claims that Rock Band infringes its patents and as such Harmonix, the game developer, MTV, the game publisher and EA, the game distributor, are all infringing its patents.

Harmonix has responded in an email to Wired Blog’s as follows:

“Gibson’s patent, filed nearly 10 years ago, required a 3D display, a real musical instrument and a recording of a concert. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are completely different: among other things they are games, require no headset and use a controller only shaped like a real instrument. It is unfortunate that Gibson unfairly desires to share in the tremendous success enjoyed by the developers of Rock Band and Guitar Hero,”

While Gibson previously threatened action against the current Guitar Hero publisher Activision, as far as I know, no law suit has been filed against Activision.

The 405 patent’s abstract reads:

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.

Dale’s Comment: I have not yet found the text of the claim online. If/when I do, I will attach it to this post.

Sources: Wired Blogs 1 | Wired Blogs 2 | CNNMOney.com (DJN) | Reuters | Joystiq | New York Times 1 | New York Times 2 | Wall St. Journal | MTV Blog | PC World | AP

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Gibson Sues U.S. Retailers Over Guitar Hero Patent Dispute

Categories: Controller CasesPatent Cases

Text of Patent No. 5,990,405 (November 23, 1999)

As previously reported: (i) in January, Gibson pressed Activision to pay it royalty fees alleging the video game Guitar Hero infringes its patent; and (ii) on March 12, 2008 Activision filed a preemptive lawsuit in the District Court for Central California seeking, among other things, to invalidate Gibson’s patent claims.

In response to Activision’s lawsuit, Gibson has now filed suit against major U.S. retailers of Activision’s game, including GameStop, Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Amazon and Toys “R” US, seeking to enjoin further sails of “Guitar Hero”.

March 21, 2oo8 Upate: While Gibson has since separately sued Harmonix, MTV and EA over alleged infringements in both Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero, as far as I’m aware Gibson has not yet filed suit directly against Activision.

Dale’s Comment: I have not found the text of the claim online. If/when I do, I will attach it to this post.

Sources: GameSpot | Dallas Business Journal | New York Times | Joystiq | msnbc (AP) | Yahoo! Tech | Gamasutra | CrunchGear | Silicon Alley Insider | Kotaku

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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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Harmonix Brings $14.5M Royalty Suit Against Activision – Sort-of

Categories: Controller CasesRoyalty Disputes

Harmonix is the developer of the first two wildly successful Guitar Hero video games – originally published by RedOctane. In June 2006 Activision purchased the publishing rights to the franchise from RedOctane and Harmonix, which was subsequently purchased by MTV, went its own way and developed Guitar Hero. Activision-owned Neversoft has since taken-up the development of Guitar Hero sequels.

Harmonix claims that under its original agreement with RedOctane (subsequently assigned to Activision), it is entitled to a higher rate of royalties, amounting to $14.5 million, for the use of its intellectual property in Guitar Hero sequels. Harmonix claims that Activision has paid royalties based only on a prior lower rate.

Viacom (the parent of MTV and Harmonix) has reportedly withdrawn the suit for now. The companies have agreed to continue discussions outside of court.

Dale’s Comment: I could not find the text of the claim online. If I do, I will attach it to this post.

Sources: Variety | Gamasutra | GameSpot | Wired Blogs | CutScene | ars technica | GameSpot | Spong | Kotaku | Game Informer | gameindustry.biz

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Activision Settles with Two Former Guitar Hero Executives

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesEmployment Law CasesInjunctionsMisc. Contract CasesNon-Compete CasesSettlementsTrade Secret CasesTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

In February, Activision launched a new lawsuit against The Ant Commandos (TAC), Reverb Communications and three former Red Octane executives/employees: former executive producer John Tam, brand manager [name removed on request] and hardware group member Jamie Yang. These former executives founded a new company with TAC – Loadstone Entertainment.

Activision has settled with John Tam and [name removed on request]. The two have consented to a permanent injunction restraining the two from:

  • distributing a demo created by TAM incorporating elements of Guitar Hero II;
  • using or disclosing any Activision trade secrets;
  • taking steps to develop drum, guitar or synthesizer-based games for the next year;
  • “working on” a guitar controller for the XBox 360 version of Guitar Hero II for six months after release; and
  • competing against an undisclosed list of peripheral devices for six months after Activision commercially releases them.

The two were also ordered to return all materials relating to Activision’s proprietary information.

As far as I’m aware, no settlement has thus far been reached with Jamie Yang, Reverb or TAC.

Dale’s Comment [written April 26, 2007]: On a personal note, I was one of the lucky one’s to pick up Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360 on launch day. The local Best Buy had about 100 of them on the morning of the launch. As I understand it, they sold out within hours and, to the date of this writing (owing partially to extreme demand and problems with some versions of the initially released guitar peripheral), I still can’t find them for sale anywhere in Toronto. I would like to purchase a second guitar peripheral. I’m having a blast with this game. As one of the commentators in a recent Joystiq Podcast pointed out, my fingers ache and want to stop playing long before the rest of me does! :)

Sources: GameSpot | Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | 1Up.com | CVG | Kotaku

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Sony Finally Settles Rumble Patent Dispute with Immersion

Categories: Controller CasesPatent CasesSettlements

Text of Immersion Patent

Almost a full year after Immersion won an appeal brought by Sony in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, after it lost at trial, and after a year of Sony marketing types insisting that rumble was a last-generation feature that wouldn’t be compatible with its new Sixaxis tilt control scheme, Sony has settled its long-standing patent dispute with Immersion and has licensed Immersion’s patented force feedback technology for use with future “PlayStation format products.”.

Sony will pay Immersion the $82 million previously awarded (Immersion had originally sought $299 million) plus $8.7 million in pre-judgment interest, in addition to compulsory license fees ordered by the District Court that were already paid.” Sony will also pay Immersion royalty/license fees of $1.875 million in each of the next twelve quarters (3 years), beginning in April 2007, totaling $22.5 million, along with other fees and royalties.

Dale’s Comment [April 30, 2007]: This couldn’t have come soon enough for this gamer. Aside from the exorbitant price and the lack of compelling games, a primary reason I haven’t yet purchased a PS3 (and yes, as I write this, PS3s are stacked high in my local Best Buy) is because I don’t want to play games without force feedback. Force feedback is integral to identifying the location of attacking foe and, frankly, rumble adds another sensory input that emerses the player more fully into the game. To my mind, Sony’s decision to release a console without rumble was akin to releasing a console without sound.

Sony has not yet announced or released a controller with rumble. But, on April 19, 2007 Sony released a PS3 firmware upgrade that activated rumble functionality for PS1 and PS2 games played on the PS3. On April 27, Engadget reported that Sony and Immersion were in talks to incorporate rumble within PS3 controllers. It appears we can expect a rumble-enabled PS3 controller sometime soon. There will likely be no PS3 in my household before then. But, the forthcoming Lair and Warhawk games are mighty tempting.

Sources: Gamasutra | Engadget | IGN.com | GameDaily.com | Immersion Press Release

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Activision Sues Ant Commandos and Former Guitar Hero Executives

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesEmployment Law CasesMisc. Contract CasesNon-Compete CasesTrade Secret CasesTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

In a new Guitar Hero related dispute, Activision (Guitar Hero publisher RedOctane’s parent company), has filed a fresh lawsuit against guitar peripheral maker The Ant Commando (TAC), Red Octane’s PR firm Reverb Communications and three former Red Octane executives/employees: former executive producer John Tam, brand manager [name removed on request] and hardware group member Jamie Yang. The former executives founded a new company with TAC – Loadstone Entertainment.

The complaint alleges:

“copyright infringement, trademark infringement, misappropriating trade secrets and confidential information, breach of contract, interference with contractual relations, and more. “

GameSpot is reporting that Activision has already obtained a temporary restraining order against the defendants restraining them from:

  • distributing a demo created by TAM incorporating elements of Guitar Hero II;
  • using or disclosing any Activision trade secrets, including: music licensing contract terms, in-game advertising, sales figures, marketing plans, product designs, and possible future songs and artists to be featured;
  • developing a guitar controller for the XBox 360 version of Guitar Hero II for three months after release;
  • soliciting Activision employees, partners or Asia-based manufacturing partners; and
  • taking any steps to develop, market, manufacture, sell, or distribute any guitar or drum based video games.

As recently as December 27, 2006, Activision and Red Octane had settled a different dispute with TAC concerning the sale of unlicensed guitar peripherals. See here for details.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | Kotaku

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Fenner Sues Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo Over Joystick Patent

Categories: Controller CasesPatent Cases

Text of 6,297,751 Patent (October 2, 2001)

Yet another controller-related patent suit is being brought against the three major console makers. This time over a patent covering a “Low-Voltage Joystiq Port Interface”. The abstract reads:

 

The joystick port interface includes an integrated circuit receiving an analog joystick position measurement signal and outputting a digital pulse signal to a processor which signifies a joystick coordinate value. The integrated circuit includes a pulse generator and a bidirectional buffer circuit. The bidirectional buffer circuit receives the analog joystick position measurement signal and selectively discharges an RC network capacitor which provides this analog measurement. This implementation provides a joystick port which uses low-voltage CMOS VLSI structures which can interface a conventional high-voltage joystick with the processor.

CONTINUE READING →

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RedOctane & The Ant Commandos Settle Guitar Hero Controller Dispute

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesProduct PackagingSettlementsTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

As expected, on December 22 The Ant Commandos and RedOctane settled their Guitar Hero controller/peripheral suit and countersuit. 1Up.com summarizes the dispute in this amusing way:

Anyway, so RedOctane sued the Ant Commandos, claiming rights infringement on their popular Gibson SG brand of guitar controllers. The Commandos fired back claiming that the SG stepped all over their existing patents on technology for 3-button Guitar Freaks! guitars. Everybody was fingerpointing, it sucked.

While details of the settlement have not been disclosed a representative of Ant Commandos confirmed to GameSpot that its products would continue to be distributed. Jack Black and the Rightous Gods of Rock will be happy with this outcome!

Dale’s Comment: Until I discovered that neither the Ant Commando nor the RedOctane controllers will work with the PS3, one of the primary reasons I wanted to purchase a PS3 was to play Guitar Hero. I had hoped that like most PS2 games, it would be playable on the PS3. Happily, Guitar Hero 2 is coming to the XBox 360 so I won’t need to purchase a PS2 in order to finally play this game.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | 1UP.com | GameIndustry.biz

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Class Action Firm and Austin Plaintiff Seek Class Action Status over WiiMote Strap

Categories: Consumer Protection CasesController CasesProduct Liability CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

It was bound to happen! Within days of Nintendo announcing its plan to replace thin WiiMote wrist straps with thicker one’s, a story emerges about a Wii purchaser in Austin, Texas filed a suit alleging Nintendo violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act, was in breach of warranty and engaged in unfair or deceptive practices:

by telling consumers that the wrist strap was to prevent the controller from flying out of a user’s hand during use, and then providing a strap that was “ineffective for its intended use.

As is typical in this kind of case, the plaintiff (or more accurately, his/her lawyers :) ) is seeking status as a class.

Sources: GameSpot | Next Generation | GameIndustry.biz | GameDaily.biz | Kotaku | Bit-tech.net | Daily Tech | Gamasutra | Engadget | Green Welling (the Class Action Firm representing the plaintiff)

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Nintendo to Replace WiiMote Wrist Straps/Recalls DS Adapters

Categories: Consumer Protection CasesController CasesProduct Liability Cases

After several reports of personal injury and numerous reports of WiiMotes flying through the air and causing property damage, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that Nintendo is voluntarily replacing the wrist straps that come with the WiiMote with stronger “enhanced” versions. There are an estimated 3.2 million straps to be replaced. Despite many press accounts to the contrary, Nintendo is not recalling existing straps. They are simply replacing existing straps upon request.

In a separate announcement Nintendo announced it was recalling some 200,000 AC adapters for Japanese versions of DS and DS Lite portable game systems.

Dale’s Comment: I’m happy to see Nintendo get out ahead of any possible lawsuits on this one. Numerous blog posts and podcasts have already started speculating about the inevitability of lawsuits if Nintendo doesn’t provide a more robust WiiMote wrist strap.

[Dec 20 Update: Well, as you can see from the related posts below, it only took 5 days from my original posting for a lawsuit story to emerge!]

Sources: Nintendo’s Wii Strap Replacement Form | GameSpot | Next Generation | GameDaily.biz | CNet Blogs | CNN Money | ABC News (AP) | Guardian Unlimited | Times Online | Playfuls.com | Washington Post (Reuters) | EuroGamer | Forbes (XFN) | BBC | PC World | Red Herring | GamaSutra

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Interlink Claims Nintendo’s Wiimote Infringes its Patent

Categories: Controller CasesPatent Cases

Text of Complaint (December 4, 2006)
Text of Patent ’221
Adding to the existing spate of console controller patent infringement suits (see related posts below) Interlink Electronics, Inc. has sued Nintendo of America claiming Nintendo is selling products, the Nintendo Wii’s Wiimote, that infringe its patents. The abstract reads, in part:

A device particularly for use with a computer comprises a housing for location at least partly between two fingers of a user’s hand and an electronic circuit mounted on a board within the housing. The circuit includes a switch responsive to pressure selectively to open and close an electronic circuit, and conductive elements arranged on the board mounting the electronic circuit. A first control element is mounted with the housing and responsive to finger pressure such that pressure applied to the first control element causes the element to operate the switch.

Sources: Gamasutra | Gizmodo | ars technica | GameSpot | Engadget | GameDaily.biz | Kotaku | Next Generation | TheWire | cbc.ca | IGN | ITWire

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RedOctane & The Ant Commandos in Settlement Discussions

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

The Ant Commandos and RedOctane are negotiating a settlement according to a motion filed by both companies on October 26

Sources: GameSpot | Xbox 360 Net | Yahoo! Games

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The Ant Commandos Coutersues RedOctane for Trade Dress Infringement

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

The Ant Commandos (TAC) is countersuing RedOctane, alleging the guitar controller was first designed by TAC’s part owner Topaway and its trade dress later copied by RedOctane after RedOctane’s CEO visited its Chinese factory and subsequently purchased several hundred of its controllers. In addition TAC has filed for an injunction asking that Activision and RedOctane be prevented from infringing on the “trade dress” and that Guitar Hero software be unbundle from SG controller to allow for fair competition.

Sources: GameSpot | Gamasutra | Next Generation | Kotaku | Joystiq | IGN | Silicon Era | GameDaily.biz

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Redoctane Sues The Ant Commandos over Peripheral

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesProduct PackagingTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

RedOctane, the developers of the popular Guitar Hero PS2 video game, have sued The Ant Commandos alleging trademark infringement, unfair competition and copyright violation among other claims in connection with the sale of The Ant Commandos’ unlicensed line of guitar-like controllers.

Sources: GameSpot | Gamasutra | Next Generation | Kotaku | ars technica | joystiq

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Microsoft/Nintendo Sued over Controllers

Categories: Controller CasesPatent Cases

Text of Complaint
Texas-based Anascape filed suit on Monday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, alleging that Microsoft and Nintendo infringed on 12 patents. The patents in question deal with a variety of controller technologies, including analog sensors, tactile feedback, and vibration mechanisms.

Dale’s Comment: OK, one wonders why Sony wasn’t sued as well? Perhaps Microsoft was targeted because it settled quickly with Immersion, while Sony “fought the good fight” for much longer. Nintendo was not targeted by Immersion. This article oddly reports an Immersion spokesperson as saying the reason is because Nintendo claimed it invented force feedback. Huh? If Nintendo invented it, how could Immersion hold the patent. If anyone has any more info on why Anascape hasn’t sued Sony, please contact me.

Sources: GameSpot | Joystiq | Gamasutra | engadget | ars technica | GameDaily.biz | Inquirer | Kotaku | Bit-tech.net | Aussie-Nintendo.com

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Is the Lack of Force-Feedback in Sony’s PS3 Controller a Technical or Legal Issue?

Categories: Controller CasesPatent Cases

Sony has explained that the lack of force-feedback in its forth-coming PS3 controller was due to its inherent interference with the PS3 controller’s new tilt feature. However, both Immersion’s claims, and this YouTube video demonstrating the compatibility of force-feedback and tilt functionality in the 1999 Pelican controller for the PS1, suggest that Sony’s decision was less about technological constraints and more about its reluctance to pay royalties to Immersion after losing the force feedback patent case to Immersion.

Sources: PS3 Fanboy (with YouTube video demo) | GameIndustry.biz | Hexus | IGN | Video Game Generation | Business Week | Gamasutra | joystiq

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Immersion Wins Latest Round Of Sony ‘Rumble’ Suit

Categories: Controller CasesDecisionsInjunctionsPatent Cases

Text of Immersion Patent
Sony’s attempt to overturn $90 million lawsuit by Immersion for copyright infringement was rejected. Sony still has an outstanding appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the stay of injunction. Should that case fail, Sony would be legally required to pay the entire $90.7 million and decide whether or not to pay Immersion licensing fees.

Sources: Gamasutra | Gamespot | Next Generation | GameDaily.biz | ars technica | Forbes | IGN | Inquirer | CNet | CVG | joystiq | Playfuls.com | GameIndustry.biz | Hexus | EuroGamer | The Register | PS3Fanboy.com

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Electro Source Follows Others and Settles Immersion Suit

Categories: Controller CasesPatent CasesSettlements

Text of Immersion Patent
Following Microsoft, Radica and others, Electro Source, maker of Pelican video games accessories, settles with Immersion. The settlement covers past royalties and related legal costs in the quarter amounting to $250,000.

Sources: Gamasutra | Next Generation | Business Wire | Next Generation | Computer Graphics World | Forbes

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Radica Settles Immersion Force Feedback Patent Suit

Categories: Controller CasesPatent Cases

Text of Immersion Patent
Following Microsoft and others, Radica settles with Immersion. The settlement covers past royalties and related legal costs in the quarter amounting to $250,000.

Source: Gamasutra

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Sony Appeals Immersion Suit, Wins Stay on Injunction

Categories: Controller CasesInjunctionsPatent CasesPolice Actions

Text of Immersion Patent
Following the January decision against Sony in Immersion Corp’s lawsuit, which alleged that Sony had violated its patents on force-feedback mechanisms with the Dual Shock controller, Sony is appealing the decision to the Federal court.

Sources: Gamasutra | CNet

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Immersion Corp. Wins Suit Against Sony

Categories: Controller CasesDecisionsPatent CasesPolice Actions

Text of Immersion Patent
Immersion Corp has won an $82 million patent infringement suit against Sony over two contested patents that Sony inadvertently violated in its Dual Shock controllers for PlayStation and PlayStation 2.

Sources: Gamasutra | Gamespot | EuroGamer | Immersion | BBC | Forbes | Washington Post

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