Gibson’s Guitar Hero Lawsuit Dismissed As “Frivolous”


Gibson Guitar’s patent infringement suit against Activision has been dismissed by a U.S. District Court in California in a ruling that describing the action as “bordering on the frivolous.”

Gibson launched the lawsuit against Activision in early 2008 over claims that Guitar Hero violated a patent for a “virtual reality music system.” Prior to the suit, Gibson had sent a letter to Activision complaining about the violation and demanding compensation, which Activision declined to offer. In fact, instead of making a deal to avoid legal expenses, Activision strongly denied the claim and filed a counter-suit of its own seeking a summary dismissal, saying it would “confront this and any other efforts by Gibson to wrongfully interfere with Activision’s relationship with its customers and its consumers.”

From the start, the optics of the case were bad for Gibson, which had actually licensed its name to Activision for use in the original Guitar Hero in 2005 and didn’t file the lawsuit until three years later, after Activision declined to renew the deal. A patent attorney speaking to E-Commerce said at the time that the suit could succeed if Gibson could prove it was unaware of the infringement until just prior to the lawsuit, but “given the pre-existing licensing arrangement between Gibson and Activision such an assertion is implausible.”

The court in California agreed, granting Activision a summary judgment denying Gibson’s claims. “As a general observation, no reasonable person of ordinary skill in the relevant arts would interpret the ‘405 Patent as covering interactive video games,” the court ruled, adding that Gibson’s interpretation of its patent could be extended to cover things from a “button of a DVD remote… to a pencil tapping a table.”

The language of Gibson’s patent itself seemed to exclude Activision from infringement: It “disavows systems that either (1) do not involve ‘actual operation of a musical instrument’ or (2) use virtual reality-type control devices,” both of which were declared to cover the Guitar Hero technology. The view of the court on Gibson’s suit was also made quite clear in the ruling, which said in part, “Gibson’s doctrine of equivalents arguments border on the frivolous.”

Source: Los Angeles Intellectual Property Attorney Trademark Blog, via Gamasutra

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