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Gibson Challenges Activision Over Guitar Hero Patent

According to a new report, guitar manufacturer Gibson and Activision have entered into a legal discussion over the giant Guitar Hero franchise, with Gibson alleging that the game violates a 1999 "simulated music performance" patent.
According to a Reuters report, guitar manufacturer Gibson and Activision have entered into a legal discussion over Guitar Hero, with Gibson alleging that the game violates a 1999 Gibson patent. Despite entering into a licensing agreement with Activision to replicate Gibson's guitar designs for Guitar Hero III, Gibson is alleging that Activision violated one of its patents, which governs "technology used to simulate a musical performance" according to the Reuters story. Activision has responded by filing a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Gibson's claims for damages. As quoted by Reuters, Gibson's letter to Activision of January 7 reads, in part, "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." According to Reuters, Activision's general counsel George Rose responded to the allegations with a statement reading, "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." Interestingly, this case may grow more complex when viewed in the context of patent agreements Activision is already engaged in. As exclusively reported by Gamasutra shortly before the game was released last year, Activision has both purchased patents from third parties and licensed patents from Guitar Freaks creator Konami which cover aspects of gameplay and interface in the Guitar Hero series. This is the second troublesome legal problem revolving around Guitar Hero to come to light today; earlier, reports surfaced that original franchise developer Harmonix filed and then withdrew a lawsuit against the company seeking more than $14.5 million in royalties for Activision's continuation of the series. [UPDATE: 03/12/08 - Clarified that Activision is litigating against Gibson, after the guitar company challenged Activision in non-court filed letters.]

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