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Gibson Accuses Guitar Hero of Patent Violation 192

Posted by samzenpus
from the karaoke-crack-down dept.
robipilot writes "Video game publisher Activision Inc. has asked a federal court to declare that its popular "Guitar Hero" game does not violate a patent held by real-guitar maker Gibson Guitar Corp. Gibson's 1999 patent covers a virtual-reality device that included a headset with speakers that simulated participating in a concert, according to a complaint filed on Tuesday by Santa Monica, Calif.-based Activision in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles."
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Gibson Accuses Guitar Hero of Patent Violation

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  • Patenting games (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:02AM (#22737586) Homepage
    Couldn't the case be made that this concept is a game (who simulates participating in a concert for any reason other than entertainment?), and therefore multiple companies can realize the idea as long as they do not use terms and images from the first company?
    • Re:Patenting games (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cizoozic (1196001) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:42AM (#22739062)
      Couldn't the cases be made that:
      • Guitar Hero has been out for years, what were they just waiting to see if there was some money to be made from a suit?
      • The game is crammed full of Gibson everything, I mean the guitar store looks more like a Gibson Factory Store than a Guitar Center. I mean who knew what a Firebird VII even was before Guitar Hero? There can't be that many Johnny Winter fans out there.
      Sorry, I know these are common sense arguments, so they probably have no place in a patent discussion.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I mean who knew what a Firebird VII even was before Guitar Hero?
        People who actually knew how to play guitar?
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by cizoozic (1196001)
          Damn right. I happen to have one in Cherry Red with gold hardware. The fact that Guitar Hero had it too is one of the only reasons I played the game as long as I did. Anything difficult in GH and I would think to myself, "Why am I spending time improving Crossroads on Expert when I've been able to genuinely play it for years?" It's time better spent (for me) on my real technique. When they made fun of people who play real guitar and put down GH on South Park, I felt a bit sheepish as it hit so close to ome.
  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes AT xmsnet DOT nl> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:05AM (#22737610)
    If they had published a game and associated hardware, we could have been hacking the Gibson by now...
  • Real Instrument? (Score:3, Informative)

    by j.sanchez1 (1030764) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:05AM (#22737614)
    • They pulled this same crap with Paul Reed Smith guitars, claiming that PRS's singlecut guitar infringed their trademark. PRS was forced to stop making singlecuts for a number of years, until the injunction, and Gibson's lawsuit, was thrown out. Gibson is a bunch of litigious bastards, and that is why I will never purchase a Gibson guitar.
      • by linuxpng (314861)
        I was looking to make this point too..and anyone who plays a non korean (or even the korean) PRS knows that it might look similar to a gibson, but it's MILES above anything gibson is putting out now.

        This is another case of a company who can't compete suing for income.
        • by halivar (535827)
          The SE line is absolutely amazing for the money IMHO. Still holding out for a full-blown 10-top McCarty, but I gotta respect the SE's: they're the best-sounding $400 guitars I've ever heard.
          • by linuxpng (314861)
            I haven't played a SE, but I have heard the same thing you are saying. Great quality beyond what they are charging. I had a 94 CE 22 that I sold due to hard times, but recently got a custom 24 10-top in black :)

            I'd put it above anything gibson has put out in years.
            • by halivar (535827)
              How do the Dragon pickups in the Custom 24 compare to the McCarty pickups, IYO? Never played one.
      • PRS is not the first or last time Gibson went after another guitar manufacturer. They killed off ESP's Explorer line in the late 90s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESP_EX [wikipedia.org].
      • by Chris Burke (6130)
        I blame the company being bought and moving from Kalamazoo MI to Nashville TN. I have no idea if this actually correlates with any change in the company's legal strategies, nevertheless I maintain that it is true.
      • by doomicon (5310)
        They've sued other guitar companies as well. I believe ESP over their popular Explorer Body Style (i.e. The one Hetfield used in the mid to late 80's).

        Funny thing about the PRS suit, was their singlecut didn't even come close to fitting in a Les Paul case, despite Gibson's claim that it was a practical duplicate knockoff.

        Whatever, I stopped looking at Gibson Guitars when the price when from "an arm and a leg".. to kidney's and sexual organs.
      • Its no surprise that Gibson is patent trolling. They haven't done anything innovative since the Patent Applied For [google.com] humbucker in 1956.
    • Would this not kill Guitar Rising (http://www.guitarrising.com) outright?
  • by jfbilodeau (931293) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:05AM (#22737618) Homepage
    You gotta wonder. Why did Dibson wait this long to act on their patent? I mean, how long has Guitar Hero been around for anyways? ...I think I know the answer, and it pisses me off.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jfbilodeau (931293)
      (oups! s/Dibson/Gibson/)

      Maybe I was mixing Dilbert and Gibson. :P
    • by iknownuttin (1099999) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:26AM (#22737714)
      I mean, how long has Guitar Hero been around for anyways? ...I think I know the answer, and it pisses me off.

      Gibson is run by really old guys. One day, one of them was being visited at their retirement home, where they run Gibson guitars from, by one of their college age great-grandchildren. He said great grandpa! I've been playing this awesome game called Guitar Hero! Grandpa put two and two together. He's seen the ads with that top hatted guy during TV night and was glad that he was playing a Gibson guitar. He realized it was one of the new fangled computer juke box thingys and immediately called his lawyer in the next room.

      That's how it happened!

    • The summary says this motion was filed by Activision, Gibson have not comment publicly.

      That makes it sound like a marketing exercise to me.
  • Took their time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smidge204 (605297) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:06AM (#22737622) Journal
    So I guess they just completely ignored Konami, who's had "Guitar Freaks" machines in arcades for nearly ten years at this point?

    Since both "Guitar Freaks" and Gibson's patent have been around since 1999, I wonder which came first. Does prior art still count if it's in another country?
    =Smidge=
    • Re:Took their time (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ohtani (154270) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:18AM (#22737686) Homepage
      IANAL, but from my understanding, no it doesn't. Konami can continue to make drummania as is, for example, but apparently they cannot bring it to the US like they were hoping to do because MTV was awarded a patent for drumming games. MTV did have one in the arcade prior to Rock Band. But it just had no "game" feel to it from my understanding.
    • by Chrisq (894406)
      Does prior art still count if it's in another country?

      In the USA it counts only if it is printed: [iusmentis.com]>

      The USA regards oral disclosures as prior art only if they were made in the USA (35 US Code section 102(a): "known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or another country"). A therapeutic technique orally handed down from one generation to another by a tribe in South America can thus still be patented in the USA, despite it being publicly known (b
      • by belmolis (702863)

        I'm surprised that such a discriminatory policy has survived the various free trade and IP harmonization agreements. Has it been an issue?

    • Does prior art still count if it's in another country?

      Other countries' laws don't even count in other countries. See here [blogspot.com], here [iht.com] and here [crn.com.au].

  • WHa? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mpathetiq (726625) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:06AM (#22737628) Homepage
    You'd think that Gibson would have realized that Guitar Hero violates their patent back in 2004 or 2005 when they signed the endorsement deal for the original game.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by h0ss (562457)
      There's probably something bigger going on here. What do you want to bet that Activision has been making noise behind-the-scenes of either dumping Gibson or making Guitar Hero 4 non-Gibson exclusive?
  • by maxair_mike (1154515) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:07AM (#22737634)
    I seem to remember Gibson being a sponsor/partner for at least Guitar Hero 3...I find it hard to believe that they just "forgot" about this particular patent until now, especially since Guitar Hero has been out for so long and the controller has been a Gibson guitar mockup for the past two games.
    • by xSauronx (608805)
      jesus h...how can you endorse something you claim infringes upon your own patent? will any sane judge do anything other than throw the case out once they hear about that?
      • by MorePower (581188)
        Yeah that seems like bad faith negotiating to sign an agreement to license the name and appearance of your guitars to a video game company, for the purpose of creating a guitar video game, and accept a bunch of money in return, yet fail to mention "Oh by the way, you won't be allowed to actually make this video game (which we're accepting a bunch of money from you for), cause we own the patent."
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Lyrael (1196443)
      Guitar Hero 1: Gibson SG controller.
      Guitar Hero 2: Gibson Explorer controller.
      Guitar Hero 3: Gibson Les Paul controller.

      Plus the fact that every single guitar modelled in every single game is a Gibson, I'm pretty sure they endorsed these games and I have no idea what the hell they think they're doing throwing this patent around now. IANAL, but I don't think they've got a leg to stand on here.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Guitar Hero 1: Gibson SG controller. Guitar Hero 2: Gibson Explorer controller. Guitar Hero 3: Gibson Les Paul controller. Plus the fact that every single guitar modelled in every single game is a Gibson, I'm pretty sure they endorsed these games and I have no idea what the hell they think they're doing throwing this patent around now.

        I have a slight suspision what might have happened here:

        Gibson: "Now, folks, we hear that you're about to make GH4. What Gibson guitar will you use this time to model t

  • We don't want it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by millwall (622730) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:07AM (#22737636)
    Activision says it doesn't want or need a license under the patent.

    I like that phrase. You would have thought that whether they want one or not is fairly irrelevant. Have you ever seen a case where a company wanted a license under a patent, but didn't need one? :-)

    • by Corporate Drone (316880) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:14AM (#22737666)
      Have you ever seen a case where a company wanted a license under a patent, but didn't need one?

      Yes... ask any of the companies who bought licenses from SCO...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nguy (1207026)
      You would have thought that whether they want one or not is fairly irrelevant.

      Not at all. If they don't "want" a license, it means that either they think the patent is invalid and they intend to fight it, or it means that they are going to work around it.

      There are good reasons to reject even a "free" license for a patent.

      Have you ever seen a case where a company wanted a license under a patent, but didn't need one? :-)

      All the time. Companies want licenses for patents if it is in their business interest to
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by reebmmm (939463)

      where a company wanted a license under a patent

      Most definitely. Most of what I do is technology licensing.

      For many companies, getting a license to a patent is just as good as owning the patent (and usually without the unknown risks/costs associated with patent prosecution). In particular, an exclusive patent license basically gives the same right to exploit an invention as a patent owner would have had, and stops others from doing the same.

      The problem the slashdot crowd has is a statistical one. It only get

      • by reebmmm (939463)
        I'll reply to myself and add one thing.

        Many companies see great value in some patents.

        A lot of people feel that patents are like the lottery, but with slightly better odds. Most patents never see the light of day. Or if they do, not for very long. There's a lot of reasons for this: i) lack of sophistication of the inventor/owner; ii) shear cost of enforcement/negotiation; iii) duration of the patent prosecution; and iv) valuelessness of the resulting patent claims after prosecution.

        However, on occasion, som

  • If I've got a patent on something so general as to say "Umm... making music with an instrument is MY PROPERTY", no one is going to listen.

    I guess Gibson is jumping on the patent troll bandwagon - maybe they believe that all the kids that would have previously bought a guitar to 'be cool' are now buying guitar hero kits?
  • jealous much? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by molex333 (1230136) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:22AM (#22737698) Homepage
    Gibson is just pissed because now kids don't have to waste money on a real guitar that they will never learn how to play. Instead they can become Guitar Hero superstars in a few weeks. I'm surprised that RIAA hasn't tried to sue Activision for loss of future profits because they are reducing the music industries talent pool!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by morari (1080535)
      The RIAA has a talent pool? Surprised me.
      • by rk (6314) *
        Yes. The A&R people find talented musicians and then the record companies drown them in it. It's all part of their business model preservation strategy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by es330td (964170)
      As long as High School chics dig guitar players there will ALWAYS be a demand for guitars. GH3 isn't an instrument, its a guitar shaped gamepad, and a very limited one at that. Gibson has about as much to fear from GHx as The French Laundry does from Swanson TV Dinners.
  • by Manip (656104) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:24AM (#22737708)
    Patent holders are like the real world equivalent of Internet trolls. As soon as you get any kind of notoriety they randomly appear spouting their trash and trying to get attention.

    In this case they're a little less interested in attention and a little more interested in money but the concept is the same. The entire patent system, software or otherwise, is somewhat flawed since it lasts too long and holds back the marketplace which it was original created to help.

    They should change the system so you only get five-ish years of protection on research with an automatic extension by a further ten years if you release a product using that patent into the marketplace. This will stop these silly troll companies like IBM hoarding tons of patents with very few actual products.
    • by gumpish (682245)

      This will stop these silly troll companies like IBM hoarding tons of patents with very few actual products.

      I don't think that's a very reasonable characterization of IBM. Yes, they do have their well known "bag o' patents" which are so general as to make every piece of software with a GUI an infringer, but I don't recall them using their patent portfolio in an evil manner. (And litigation isn't part of their business model.) I'd be genuinely interested to hear about some instances where this happened.

  • Link to the Patent (Score:3, Informative)

    by Barbobot (1252798) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:27AM (#22737718)
    http://www.google.com/patents?id=YAUZAAAAEBAJ [google.com]

    Note that Gibson was clearly not thinking about video games, as it's using a real guitar--kind of like an immersive Jamey Abersold experience :-P
  • So, after patenting, for any value of X, "doing X with a computer", "doing X with a client/server system", and "doing X over the web", we are now going to get a flood of patents on "doing X in virtual reality"?
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      and "augmented reality", "cyber space", "sub-space", "hyper-space". "quasi-space", "pretty-space", "*below*"
  • Aren't the guitar hero "Les Paul" designs licensed by Gibson to Guitar Hero? If so, then I don't see how they can make a claim for infringement while also participating in the product's current material profit.
    • by Speare (84249)
      Say you're an electronics company and you sell components. These components are used in the displays, keyboards, mice, storage and power areas of a single product, say, a laptop. If a laptop maker uses your displays, keyboards and power units, but decides they can make the storage and mice themselves, that's their right. You still want to sell those displays, keyboards and power units. If they use your patented methods to make those storage and mice, though, does that sound legitimate under patent law?
      • by Gonarat (177568) *

        This is different. They didn't go out and buy real Gibson guitars and hook them into the game. They went to Gibson and licensed the right to create plastic guitar that looks like a Gibson. There was an agreement signed and Gibson gets some kind of cut. Guitar Hero could of created a generic guitar and not had to do this, but they wanted the Gibson look.

        The same thing applies to computers. If I put together my own computers and sell them, I am free to go and buy whatever mouse and keyboard I want and i

  • by ILuvSP (625676) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:40AM (#22737792)
    From the patent...

    1. A system for electronically simulating participation by a user in a pre-recorded musical performance comprising:

    a. a musical instrument, the musical instrument generating an instrument audio signal at an instrument audio output, the instrument audio signal varying in response to operation of the instrument by the user of the system;
    The guitars from Guitar Hero do not produce "audio" signal at an "instrument audio output". They are not musical instruments. I think Gibson is reaching here!
  • by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:56AM (#22737928)
    Before we know the next corporation patents "An imaginary environment for simulated participating in the act of making love".

    Guys we're in real trouble here. We're all guilty. The young ones are particularly vounrable to offending the patent multiple times a day. (We older guys envy the young ones for the favorable frequency. But I digress.)
  • I don't get it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DrXym (126579) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:59AM (#22737954)
    Guitar Hero is a ripoff of the GuitarFreaks arcade game which according to Wikipedia first appeared in February 1999. So quite possibly the game concept predates the patent.
  • dontcha think? So, in GH3, Gibson gets their name on the 'guitar controllers' and now they are pulling this. You'd think charging 1000 dollars for a real guitar would keep you in business without having to go on this particular rampage that they've chosen.
  • I think to myself whether there's not a "cover the ground with patents" strategy out there, when people start to cover abstract concepts and ideas like that. I mean, suppose you think about something that could be done, not the how, really, but the product, the result. You just go ahead and patent it. One day, someone creative, resourceful will be able to implement it and -- there -- you pull your patent out of the drawer!

    It looks like the race to register domains names. People were registering scores of sh
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by russotto (537200)

      I mean, suppose you think about something that could be done, not the how, really, but the product, the result. You just go ahead and patent it. One day, someone creative, resourceful will be able to implement it and -- there -- you pull your patent out of the drawer!

      Yes. The Supreme Court noticed this tendency in Atlantic Works v. Brady in 1882.

      "It creates a class of speculative schemers who make it their business to watch the advancing wave of improvement, and gather its foam in the form of patented mono

  • So, essentially they've patented the idea of building hardware to facilitate the playing of Air Guitar, right?

    I mean, if in the 80's Wayne's World was showing everyone air guitar, and karaoke existed ... how big of a stretch is it (really) to arrive at the Air Guitar Facilitation Doohickie of whatever the heck they've called this.

    This really does sound more like a concept than an actual patentable item to me.

    Cheers
  • <braveheart>You may take our intellectual property, but you'll never take...our FREEDOM!!!</braveheart>
  • Dammit, Gibson. When I saw the headline I thought it would be because the Guitar Hero controllers look like Gibsons (SGs and Les Pauls, specifically). What damage is GH doing to Gibson besides increasing interest in learning to play a real guitar?
  • Guitar Hero games feature Gibson Guitars. GH2 and GH3 feature gibson guitars both in the game as purchasable upgrades and outside the game as controlers. The Gibson branding is all over the place in and out of the games as well.

    Maybe there are just not enough people running out and buying Gibson guitars because they are too busy playing "Dragon Force" On expert.

    Whatever the case it is Gibson trying to whore money from an excessively popular game. Perhaps GH4 will drop the Gibson branding and go to their com
  • Hm... (Score:3, Informative)

    by morari (1080535) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:55AM (#22739206) Journal
    Gibson should just release their own third-party guitar controller. I'm sure as fuck not paying $70 for Red Ocatane's, when it is essentially just a shell piggybacking on all of the Wii remote's functionality. Besides, I don't intend to give anymore money to a company that doesn't even try to appease its customers within reason. It took months for them just to get those overpriced guitars out, if nothing else. Nyko really screwed up by planning to release theirs in May instead of a few months ago. They would have made a killing.
  • Note: I am doing this quick and dirty, and electronics is not my field (I am a chemical examiner). The following is my opinion only, and should not be considered binding. Claims 1-12 do not apply as there is no musical instrument, the guitar in Guitar heroes does not produce music on its own. It is a game controller that mimics a musical instrument. Claim 1 is the only claim that mentions the guitar, however the remainder of claims 2-12 are dependent on claim 1, so they are assumed to incorporate all of th

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