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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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1 comment

1  Rhyscurrency { 11.16.11 at 1:43 am }

Anyway, if Gibson wins the suit then the only thing that's going to happen is the exchange of monies. There will be no victory for acoustic instruments nor weakening of the population playing GH or any other video game for that matter. The only thing that will come from a Gibson victory is the continued use of patents as lottery tickets.