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Gibson v. Guitar Hero Dismissed

Gibson''s lawsuit against Guitar Hero''s publisher, Activision, was thrown out this week.

California (March 4, 2009) -- After the original filing nearly a year ago, the U.S. District Court of Central California has dismissed Gibson’s lawsuit that Activision’s Guitar Hero series violated U.S. Patent No. 5,990,505.

That patent, also known as "The '405 Patent," covers "a system and method for generating and controlling a simulated musical concert experience."

“No reasonable person of ordinary skill in the relevant arts would interpret the '405 Patent as covering interactive video games," wrote Judge Marianna R. Pfaelzer in a stern ruling obtained by video game website GameSpot. The ruling continued, calling Gibson's claims, "bordering on frivolous."

Gibson had licensed the use of its guitars as controllers and game items for Guitar Hero since the franchise debuted in 2005. Most recently, Activision licensed nine different Gibson guitars to appear in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, as well as modeled its controller after the Les Paul. Gibson & Activision's licensing agreement ended after that game, shortly before the original lawsuit.

Gibson requested in a letter sent to Activision that the publisher "obtain a license under Gibson's [patent] or halt sales of any version of the 'Guitar Hero' game software." Activision decided it did not need a license under Gibson's patent and then came Gibson's suit.

Additionally, Gibson has sued major retailers that sell the Guitar Hero series, including Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart and K-Mart, as well as MTV, Harmonix and Electronic Arts for Rock Band’s use of guitar controllers.

As of last Thursday, Activison’s Guitar Hero suit is the only suit that has been thrown out.

For more info on the original case, check out our article in the May 2008 issue of Premier Guitar.