Most people overlook the tiny patent-related print on products sold in the U.S., but a group calling itself the Patent Compliance Group has been paying close attention.
On February 12, the group sued Guitar Hero
publisher Activision for allegedly labeling Guitar Hero 5
, Band Hero
, Guitar Hero Smash Hits
, and DJ Hero
with patent numbers whose respective patent descriptions don't cover the scope of the product. Those actions intentionally deceived the public, according to the PCG.
The group also alleged that Activision labeled those games as "patent pending" or "patent applied for" when that was not the case, and said Activision wrongfully put those patent markings on advertising as well.
The PCG is seeking an award of "not more than $500 for each of Defendant's violations." Half of the money won would go to PCG, while the other half would go to the U.S. government, the filing said.
That means that each unit sold of any of the music titles in question could incur up to a $500 penalty, which would amount to an enormous sum of money if Activision is found to be in violation. Guitar Hero 5
reportedly sold around 1 million units alone in its first four months since its September 2009 launch.
"False patent marking is a serious problem," reads the PCG's complaint, which was obtained by Gamasutra. "Acts of false marking deter innovation and stifle competition in the marketplace. If an article that is within the public domain is falsely marked, potential competitors may be dissuaded from entering the same market."
The suit was filed in a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas by PCG as a "qui tam" action, a legal action in which members of the public can sue on behalf of the government, and potentially receive all or part of the damages awarded. Activision said that it does not comment on pending litigation.
Activision isn't the only company that the PCG has sued in recent days. The group also filed suit against Timex and Brunswick on February 12, and against Wright Medical Technology on the 16th.