Gibson Sues EA, MTV, Harmonix over Rock Band; Update: Harmonix Responds, Denies Allegations

Update: Rock Band developer Harmonix has issued a response to the lawsuit, labeling guitar maker Gibson's claims of patent infringement "completely without merit."

"It is unfortunate that Gibson unfairly desires to share in the tremendous success enjoyed by the developers of Rock Band and Guitar Hero," a Harmonix spokesperson told Shacknews. "This lawsuit is completely without merit and we intend to defend it vigorously.

"Gibson's patent, filed nearly 10 years ago, required a 3D display, a real musical instrument and a recording of a concert," Harmonix's statement continued. "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."

Original Story: Continuing its recent legal activity, guitar manufacturer Gibson has sued Rock Band developer Harmonix, along with owner MTV Networks and publisher Electronic Arts, for infringing on one of its patents.

According to Gibson, Harmonix--which developed the multi-instrument music title Rock Band (PS2, PS3, X360) and created the Guitar Hero series--violated a 1999 patent for technology that simulates a concert performance via pre-recorded audio and a musical instrument.

The guitar maker sued six retailers--GameStop,, Wal-Mart, Target, Toys "R" Us and Kmart--earlier this week for selling publisher Activision's Guitar Hero line of music games.

"Gibson Guitar had made good faith efforts to enter into a patent license agreement with the defendants in this case," Gibson said of the Harmonix filing. "The defendants have not responded in a timely manner with an intent to enter into negotiations for a patent license agreement.

"Gibson Guitar had no alternative but to bring the suit, and it will continue to protect its intellectual property rights against any and all infringing persons."

Following notification of the supposed patent infringement earlier this year, Activision filed a motion to invalidate Gibson's patent, claiming that its Guitar Hero games do not violate the patent and that the three-year delay between the debut of Guitar Hero and Gibson's allegation had granted the company an implied license.

Chris Faylor was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 21, 2008 12:16 PM

    These guys are setting themselves up to be parody-bait in future titles once the Japanese guitar game releases are brought to light as prior art.

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      March 21, 2008 12:35 PM

      I think the whole "simulate a concert performance" would be Gibson's comeback there.

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      March 21, 2008 2:54 PM

      What does a Japanese game, released in Japan and not in the US have anything to do with US patent law?

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        March 21, 2008 4:01 PM

        Why wouldn't a non-US-released thing, if old enough to count as 'prior art' (three years prior to patent? I can't remember) apply?

        Again, only for prior art/negating the patent in the US - obviously if it wasn't prior art, it wouldn't be held to US patent laws except with regards to US release.

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        March 21, 2008 4:04 PM

        You cannot patent an idea if someone else had the idea first.

        If a japanese game used similar concepts to those described in Gibson's patent, and that game was released before Gibson's patent was filed, the game serves as Prior Art and the patent is invalid.

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        March 21, 2008 4:08 PM

        I played Guitar Freaks in the US arcade I worked at around '00/2000. It was a big corporate arcade too, (GameWorks) so it's not like it was some rare import machine.

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          March 21, 2008 4:59 PM

          Reminds me of the Scientology episode of South Park. 'You are soo Sued!'

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