Gibson Guitar, Activision Battle Over Guitar Hero Patents - InformationWeek

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3/13/2008
05:49 PM
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Gibson Guitar, Activision Battle Over Guitar Hero Patents

The Gibson look-alikes, including Les Paul, SG, and Kramer models, are allowed under an undisclosed license agreement between the two companies.

Activision wants a court to uphold its rights to the technology behind its wildly popular video game, Guitar Hero.

The company on Tuesday filed papers in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles asking a judge to dismiss claims from Gibson, the legendary guitar maker, that the video game violates patents dating back to 1999. Guitar Hero was released less than three years ago. Players use a control that is shaped like a Gibson guitar to select scrolling musical notes and "play" along with music tracks.

The Gibson look-alikes, including Les Paul, SG, and Kramer models, are allowed under an undisclosed license agreement between the two companies.

Gibson reportedly sent a letter to Activision earlier this year saying that the control device violates patents Gibson holds for simulating a concert using speakers and a headset. The company claimed that Activision should obtain licenses for the software and controllers, although Activision reportedly has a license on the Les Paul trademark.

Activision argues that Gibson has implied consent to use the technology by waiting three years to dispute the video game maker's rights to the technology.

By 2007, the game's second version for PlayStation 2 ranked fourth among the best-selling video games in the United States, according to the NDP Group.

Consumers bought 2.72 million units of "Guitar Hero II: Legends of Rock" for the PS2 and total sales for Guitar Hero games surpassed $820 million in 2007. That was a record for a single franchise in one year, according to NDP.

Guitar Hero exceeded $1 billion in North American sales in January, according to Activision. A month earlier, the game went mobile, thanks to a deal with Verizon.

Vivendi SA plans to acquire 68% of Activision and merge its game group with the company in a deal worth nearly $19 billion.

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