Gibson Loses Guitar Hero Court Battle

The US District Court for the Central District of California today ruled on the Gibson Guitar v. Guitar Hero lawsuit, coming down in favor of Activision and its line of rhythm video games.

Gibson filed suit last March claiming that rhythm video games violated its 1999 patent covering simulated concert performances. nope But the district court today found that the patent only covers actual musical instruments, not the gaming controllers, which it classifies as toys.

"As a general observation, no reasonable person of ordinary skill in the relevant arts would interpret the '405 Patent as covering interactive video games," reads the first searing sentence of the Court's judgment.

As the Milord trademark blog amusingly explains:

The Court quickly dismissed Gibson's contention that the sound made by the Guitar Hero controller was potentially musical because Gibson's interpretation would extend coverage to a "button of a DVD remote... to a pencil tapping a table." Gibson conceded that the guitar controller did not produce "musical sounds," but argued that the drum set did in fact produce "musical sounds." The Court, however, concluded that musical sounds must have more definite characteristics than a thud produced from striking a piece of rubber or plastic. Indeed, Gibson's own expert testified that musical sounds have articulable characteristics, e.g. "timbre" and "pitch."