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Gibson Accuses Guitar Hero of Patent Violation

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the karaoke-crack-down dept.

Patents 192

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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192 comments

Patenting games (5, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737586)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737710)

You may be an obnoxious pretentious jerk who believes in zombies but you're 100% right on this one.

Re:Patenting games (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738802)

Any argument can be made; but is it a good argument? This is a patent issue not a copyright issue. The protection is on the idea / invention; not the particular expression of the idea.

Crucify me, baby (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737588)

I hate to say this, but the patent does seem to cover Guitar Hero.

Overly broad? Possibly, but sounds like it is applicable.

Re:Crucify me, baby (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737724)

What patent? I can't see any link or patent number.

Re:Crucify me, baby (5, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737736)

Here's a link: the patent [google.com]

Re:Crucify me, baby (5, Insightful)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738230)

This looks like a classic poster boy for bad patents: the abstract indicates that Guitar Hero doesn't violate anything. First off, they explictly state musician. Guitar Hero players? Not hardly. Second, they state musical instrument. I don't think 4 buttons counts as an instrument. There are also no 3-D head gear, nor headphones involved.

If you start reading the claims, the entire thing falls apart at every level. First off - there's no instrument, and certainly no audio signal generated by the Guitar Hero "guitar", which appears to be the crux of their patent. Then again, IANAIP/PL (IP/Patent Lawyer).

I'm not even sure what exactly they're patenting here. There's no "System" that I can see, other than a very high level concept drawing and what looks like a basic high level distortion processor schematic. I was under the impression that "methods" like the abstract idea being described could not be patented.

Re:Crucify me, baby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22739008)

I was under the impression that "methods" like the abstract idea being described could not be patented.

That's because you believed the propaganda, the theory of how the patent system is supposed to work. In practice, any random shit can be patented and sued over, especially in the USA.

Re:Crucify me, baby (1)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738278)

Well, just from a cursory review of the patent claims, I imagine infringement is going to turn on the construction of "the instrument audio signal."

Guitar Hero doesn't use a real instrument and the guitar doesn't produce sounds. The game system is responsive to button pushing not to the sounds produced by the guitar. Gibson's patent would be a very REALISTIC version of guitar hero.

Re:Crucify me, baby (4, Insightful)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737772)

Overly broad? Possibly, but sounds like it is applicable.

"Overly broad" would not a problem, and this patent isn't "overly broad".

The problem with the patent is obviousness.

If this is allowed to stand, then for any human activity, people could patent doing that activity in virtual reality, and that's simply absurd.

The whole point of virtual reality is that it lets you do real human activities, but permits you to get into situations that you couldn't get into in real life. That includes performing with a band as much as dating a super model.

Re:Crucify me, baby (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737864)

Also, playing guitar hero is nothing like playing actual guitar.

Re:Crucify me, baby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737978)

Also, playing guitar hero is nothing like playing actual guitar.

lol, someone didn't even read the summary.

Re:Crucify me, baby (4, Interesting)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738420)

The problem with this is that Guitar Hero hasn't even come close to their patent [google.com] . The patent doesn't seem to be overly broad to me.

Their patent shows that there is a VR headset attached to the player's head (though it does mention a VR 'environment'. I don't think that a TV counts). That would include the video aspect. I haven't read the whole patent, but the experience is quite the opposite of GH. Their patent covers wearing these goggles and playing from a First Person View, as explained in the second paragraph of the patent.

Another problem is that the words "prerecorded video" are thrown around a LOT. All the game play video in GH is generated on the spot.

I think the last problem is that the patent states that you would be playing a particular instrument (as opposed to an input device) so the GH guitar probably won't be covered as it doesn't produce any signals that can be representative of music.

Re:Crucify me, baby (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738626)

It's the situation of patenting a problem instead of a specific solution to a problem. It is an indication of a broken system when this can be done.

Re:Crucify me, baby (4, Insightful)

addie (470476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737794)

From TFA:

"'simulate participation in a concert by playing musical instrument and wearing a head-mounted 3-D display that includes stereo speakers.' The device described in the patent also includes playback of audio and video of a prerecorded concert and a separate track of audio from the user's instrument, according to the patent form."

- Real musical instrument
- Head mounted 3-D display
- Prerecorded concert

VS.

- Plastic guitar
- TV display
- Animated characters

Saying this patent applies to Guitar Hero is like saying that milk is the same as beer. You can drink them both, but the experience is completely different.

Re:Crucify me, baby (-1, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737836)

From the patent

- No mention of instrument's "realness", only that it have "strings" and that it act as an input device
- No mention of head-mounted display, only that the display show feedback depending upon the user's quality of play
- No requirement of pre-recorded concert, only that one of the possible features could be a pre-recorded audience

But I don't expect you to have any actual knowledge of anything. You're a slashbot, after all.

Re:Crucify me, baby (4, Informative)

addie (470476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737914)

From the patent itself:

12. The system of either claim 10 or claim 11 wherein the video display and the audio playback transducer are combined in a stereoscopic head set wearable by the user.

14. The system of claim 13 wherein the audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance comprises a separate instrument sound track and whereby the characteristic of the audio portion controlled by the source audio control circuit is a volume level of the instrument sound track played by the system.

19. The system of claim 13 further comprising a headset wearable by the user, the headset having left and right audio speakers and a stereoscopic video display, the left and right speakers operably connected to left and right channels on the source audio output and to the controlled audio output, and the video display operably connected to the source video output.

21. A system for allowing a player using a guitar to control simulated participation in a musical concert during synchronous playback of a pre-recorded concert video track, pre-recorded left and right concert sound tracks, and a separate pre-recorded guitar track, the system comprising:

27. The method of claim 26 wherein the musical instrument is a guitar.

I'm not sure which patent you were reading...

Re:Crucify me, baby (0, Flamebait)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738238)

Apparently, you are a lying asshole. I say that because you have committed lies of omission.

System of claim 1 is the primary claim. All the rest are systems they claim as part of the patent. Your little cherry picking expedition proves you are a liar.

Maybe next time you won't try to lie about things by omitting important information, but I don't it.

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;
        b. a video source providing a source video signal at a source video output, the source video signal representing a video portion of the pre-recorded musical performance;
        c. a video display responsive to the source video signal whereby the user can view the video portion of the pre-recorded musical performance on the video display;
        d. an audio source providing a source audio signal at a source audio output, the source audio signal representing an audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance, the audio portion including an instrument sound track containing pre-recorded musical sounds that would be generated by the musical instrument in the pre-recorded musical performance;
        e. a system interface device having a first audio input electrically connected to the instrument audio output, a second audio input electrically connected to the source audio output, and a first interface audio output;
        f. the system interface device including a source audio control circuit responsive to the instrument audio signal, whereby a characteristic of the source audio signal is controlled in response to operation of the musical instrument by the user to provide a controlled source audio signal at the first interface audio output; and
        g. an audio playback transducer responsive to the controlled source audio signal such that the user can listen to the audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance on the transducer, in synchronization with the video portion.

2. The system of claim 1 whereby the characteristic of the source audio signal controlled by the source audio control circuit is a source audio signal level.

3. The system of claim 2 wherein the musical instrument is a guitar whereby variations in striking of strings on the guitar by the user produces changes in level of the audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance on the audio playback transducer.

4. The system of claim 1 wherein the system interface device further comprises an instrument audio switch responsive to the instrument audio signal level to connect the controlled source audio signal to the interface audio output only when the instrument audio signal level reaches a pre-determined threshold generated by operation of the musical instrument.

5. The system of claim 4 further comprising a bypass switch operable when switched to a bypass position to connect the instrument audio signal to the audio transducer such that the user can listen to the instrument audio signal while operating the musical instrument and while viewing the video portion of the musical performance.

6. The system of claim 5 wherein the system interface device is further operable to suppress the instrument audio track when the bypass switch is in the bypass position.

7. The system of claim 1 further comprising an audio mixer operably connected between the interface audio output and the audio transducer.

8. The system of claim 7 wherein the audio mixer is further operably connected between the source audio output and the first audio input on the interface device.

9. The system of claim 8 further comprising an audio effects processor operably connected between the system interface device and the audio mixer.

10. The system of claim 1 wherein the audio source and the video source are combined in a video tape machine.

11. The system of claim 1 wherein the audio source and the video source are combined in a video disc machine.

12. The system of either claim 10 or claim 11 wherein the video display and the audio playback transducer are combined in a stereoscopic head set wearable by the user.

13. A system for simulating participation of a user playing a musical instrument in a pre-recorded musical performance having audio and video portions, the musical instrument producing instrument audio signals at an instrument audio output when the instrument is played, comprising:

        a. a source playback device for playback of the audio and video portions of the pre-recorded musical performance through corresponding source audio and source video outputs;
        b. a source audio control device for controlling one or more characteristics of the audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance during playback, the source audio control means operably connected to the source audio output and to the instrument audio output and having a controlled audio output; and
        c. the source audio control device is responsive to the instrument audio signals whereby at least one characteristic of the audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance is controlled by playing of the musical instrument by the user.

14. The system of claim 13 wherein the audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance comprises a separate instrument sound track and whereby the characteristic of the audio portion controlled by the source audio control circuit is a volume level of the instrument sound track played by the system.

15. The system of claim 14 wherein the musical instrument is a guitar and wherein the instrument sound track comprises pre-recorded guitar music such that the volume level of the pre-recorded guitar music played by the system is controlled by playing of the guitar by the user.

16. The system of claim 15 further comprising a bypass switch operable by the user to suppress the instrument audio track and to cause the instrument audio signals to be played by the system when the user plays the guitar in synchronization with video portion of the pre-recorded musical performance.

17. The system of claim 16 wherein the audio portion of the pre-recorded musical performance further comprises a performance audio track separable from the instrument audio track such that the volume level of the pre-recorded guitar music is controlled independently of the performance audio track.

18. The system of claim 13 further wherein the source audio control device is further operable to cause initial activation of the source playback device in response to playing of the guitar by the user.

19. The system of claim 13 further comprising a headset wearable by the user, the headset having left and right audio speakers and a stereoscopic video display, the left and right speakers operably connected to left and right channels on the source audio output and to the controlled audio output, and the video display operably connected to the source video output.

20. The system of claim 13 further comprising an audio mixer, the mixer operably connected between the source audio, instrument audio, and controlled audio outputs and the left and right speakers.

21. A system for allowing a player using a guitar to control simulated participation in a musical concert during synchronous playback of a pre-recorded concert video track, pre-recorded left and right concert sound tracks, and a separate pre-recorded guitar track, the system comprising:

        a. an audio/video playback device adapted to play the pre-recorded video track through a video source output in synchronization with playback of the pre-recorded left and right concert sound tracks through left and right channel source outputs and the pre-recorded guitar track through a guitar track source output;
        b. a video display connected to the video source output;
        c. an audio interface box having an instrument input connected to an instrument output on the guitar, an instrument audio output, a guitar track input, and a controlled guitar track output;
        d. an audio mixer having a mixer source input connected to the left and right channel source outputs and to the guitar track source output, a mixer instrument input connected to the instrument audio output, a guitar track output connected to the guitar track input on the interface box and adapted to output the pre-recorded guitar track, a controlled guitar track input connected to the controlled guitar track output; and a mixer audio output having right and left channels, the mixer audio output providing a system audio signal responsive to instrument audio signals at the mixer instrument input, to the guitar track, and to the left and right sound tracks;
        e. left and right audio speakers connected to respective left and right channels of the mixer audio output;
        f. the interface box further comprising a guitar channel control circuit operable to control a signal level of the guitar track at the controlled guitar track output in response to variation in instrument audio signals generated at the instrument audio output when the guitar is played; and
        g. whereby the player can hear the left and right pre-recorded concert sound tracks and the guitar track while viewing the video track and can control a sound volume of the guitar track by playing the guitar.

22. The system of claim 21 further comprising a bypass switch connected to a switch input on the interface box, the interface box further including a bypass circuit responsive to the bypass switch and operable to inhibit output of instrument audio signals to the mixer when the bypass switch is in a normal position, and operable to inhibit output of the pre-recorded guitar track to the mixer when the bypass switch is in a bypass position, whereby the player can selectably play and hear the guitar in synchronization with the left and right concert sound tracks and with the concert video track.

23. The system of claim 21 further comprising an effects processor connected between the instrument audio output and the mixer instrument input.

24. The system of claim 21 wherein the left and right audio speakers and the video display are combined in a headset wearable by the guitar player.

25. A method of a simulating participation by a musician in a recorded concert comprising the steps of

        a. playing on a playback device a pre-recorded concert video track in synchronization with a pre-recorded concert sound track and a pre-recorded instrument sound track;
        b. separating the instrument sound track from the concert sound track and providing the separated instrument sound track to a control device;
        c. varying in the control circuit at least one parameter of the instrument sound track in response to audio signals generated by a musical instrument when played by the musician, thereby generating a controlled instrument sound track; and
        d. providing a normal simulation mode in which the controlled instrument sound track and the concert sound track are played on a sound system in synchronization with display of the concert video track.

26. The method of claim 25 further comprising the step of providing a bypass simulation mode in which the pre-recorded instrument track is suppressed and the audio signals generated by the musical instrument while the musician plays the instrument are played on the sound system in synchronization with the concert sound track and with display of the concert video.

27. The method of claim 26 wherein the musical instrument is a guitar.

28. An apparatus for controlling playback from a playback device of a pre-recorded instrument sound track in synchronization with a pre-recorded concert sound track and a pre-recorded concert video track comprising:

        a. a musical instrument having an instrument audio output;
        b. a control circuit connected to the instrument audio output and to the playback device; and
        c. the control circuit comprising an instrument track input connected to an instrument track output through a signal conditioning circuit, the signal conditioning circuit responsive to audio signals generated by the musical instrument when the instrument is played whereby the control circuit generates a controlled instrument track signal at the instrument track output.

29. The apparatus of claim 28 further comprising a bypass circuit controlled by a bypass switch and operatively connected to the control circuit, the switch having a bypass position in which the bypass circuit inhibits generation of the controlled instrument track signal and allows audio reproduction of the audio signals generated by the musical instrument during playback of video track and the concert sound track.

30. The apparatus of claim 29 wherein the musical instrument is a guitar and wherein the pre-recorded instrument track comprises guitar music.

Re:Crucify me, baby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738468)

You are obviously new here. People really do not understand patents here at all. I am shocked they even copied and pasted claims to their response. I gave up trying to argue with some of these people long ago, because they were stuck in their ignorant mindset and were unwilling to go review the readily available and free information on how patents and the patent system actually work.

Re:Crucify me, baby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738586)

it isn't a guitar. not a stringed instrument.

Re:Crucify me, baby (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738628)

Apparently, you are a lying asshole. I say that because you have committed lies of omission.

That's very astute of you. Now can you say that in a civilized fashion?

Re:Crucify me, baby (4, Insightful)

skrolle2 (844387) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738996)

It still fails to cover Guitar Hero, because claim 1a says:

a musical instrument, the musical instrument generating an instrument audio signal at an instrument audio output,
That, and all the variants of it, consistently mention that the device you use for participation is something which itself produces audio, and that the entire system somehow intercepts this audio to change the experience. The Guitar Hero controller does not create audio output (other than irritating clicking noises :) ) and I think that that might be enough to claim that they are not violating the patent.

Re:Crucify me, baby (3, Funny)

NCG_Mike (905098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738142)

"Saying this patent applies to Guitar Hero is like saying that milk is the same as beer. You can drink them both, but the experience is completely different." Not if you're a "Newcomer" in Alien Nation ;-)

Re:Crucify me, baby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738650)

i can agree to this beign more logical than anything else . It seems most people now a day's want to take the fight into the courtrooms due to "copyright this and patent that" years after a devoloping company applies such tech to demonstrate the consumer base is there. Then viola the sales attained from such succesfull product/entertainment is sought after by those whinny company's who should taken the initiative to progress the tech.Just plain and simple cowardess

Re:Crucify me, baby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738684)

I like your comparison.

Re:Crucify me, baby (1)

u-235-sentinel (594077) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738774)

Saying this patent applies to Guitar Hero is like saying that milk is the same as beer. You can drink them both, but the experience is completely different.

so instead of saying free as in beer we'll start saying free as in Milk?

I'm sorry but that just doesn't sound right ;-)

Re:Crucify me, baby (1)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737894)

I admit, I haven't RTFA or the patent, but I thought in order to file for a patent you had to have some concrete evidence, such as prototypes, detailed schematics, etc. I'm not a patent expert, but I didn't think you could patent "playing plastic instruments to simulate rocking out."

Also, aren't patents kind of a use it or lose it thing? Again, I'm a patent n00b so forgive me if I'm ignorant on these points.

Re:Crucify me, baby (1)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738364)

aren't patents kind of a use it or lose it thing? Again, I'm a patent n00b so forgive me if I'm ignorant on these points.

No. That's a trademark.

in order to file for a patent you had to have some concrete evidence, such as prototypes, detailed schematics, etc

Reduction to practice per se is not required. If a patent application tries to claim something non-functional (like perpetual motion) the application will be rejected without some evidence of the success of an invention.

Also, it's very possible for a patent specification to be "not enabled." This was one of the arguments about the stem cell patents (they claimed lots of stem cells but only did it successfully with humans and a couple other animals, but not every animal). Most patents will pass this, though, if one reasonably skilled in the art could practice the invention disclosed.

In this case, there are plenty of schematics and diagrams and descriptions of how to do it. That's not an issue.

Re:Crucify me, baby (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737900)

You don't need 3D glasses and a headset for guitar hero though? Plus, after seeing some kids play it in a store, it's basically nothing like a real guitar.. looks more like playing DDR except with your fingers instead of your legs. If they had 6 rows of buttons instead of one, then it would start getting into simulating a guitar.

Re:Crucify me, baby (2, Interesting)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738464)

Exactly. The patent appears to cover a "real" guitar, complete with its own audio output. On the other hand, a Guitar Hero "guitar" is really just a fancy (PC|Playstation 2|Playstation 3|Wii|Xbox 360) controller.

Too bad Gibson didn't do anything with it (5, Funny)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737610)

If they had published a game and associated hardware, we could have been hacking the Gibson by now...

Re:Too bad Gibson didn't do anything with it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737682)

More or Less Paul?

(-1, Funny) (1)

halivar (535827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738180)

That rating is a badge of honor. It says to the world, "I may not know comedy, but damnit: I know what I like!" A valiant jest, sir; a valiant jest.

Re:Too bad Gibson didn't do anything with it (1)

BlueNoteMKVI (865618) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738188)

I wish I had mod points today. Whoever modded that down needs to get a clue. If you don't get the joke, Google for "les paul." I'll give you a virtual mod to +5 funny.

Re:Too bad Gibson didn't do anything with it (0)

B00yah (213676) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737856)

BRAVO! of course my mod points expired yesterday :/

Real Instrument? (2, Informative)

j.sanchez1 (1030764) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737614)

Hopefully. Wouldn't be the first time. (2, Informative)

halivar (535827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737990)

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.

Re:Hopefully. Wouldn't be the first time. (1)

linuxpng (314861) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738304)

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.

Re:Hopefully. Wouldn't be the first time. (1)

halivar (535827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738654)

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.

Why did they wait this long? (4, Insightful)

jfbilodeau (931293) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737618)

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:Why did they wait this long? (2, Funny)

jfbilodeau (931293) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737640)

(oups! s/Dibson/Gibson/)

Maybe I was mixing Dilbert and Gibson. :P

Re:Why did they wait this long? (1)

edittard (805475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737740)

Perhaps you were thinking that when you hold a ptent it means you've got dibs on [wikipedia.org] something?

Re:Why did they wait this long? (5, Funny)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#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!

Marketing Exercise (1)

@madeus (24818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738670)

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 (4, Interesting)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737622)

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 (5, Interesting)

ohtani (154270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737686)

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.

Re:Took their time (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737722)

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 (but not from a printed publication) for many years.

I would imagine there are printed descriptions (service manuals, sales brochures, etc.) for arcade games, if so I think this would count.

Re:Took their time (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737768)

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? (4, Insightful)

mpathetiq (726625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737628)

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.

This is interesting... (3, Insightful)

maxair_mike (1154515) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:This is interesting... (1)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737706)

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?

Re:This is interesting... (1)

Ron_Fitzgerald (1101005) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738462)

Correct. The guitar hero 3 controller even has the Gibson logo on the 'Gibson Explorer' wired controller. This had to be licensed.

Re:This is interesting... (2, Informative)

Lyrael (1196443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738700)

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.

We don't want it (2, Insightful)

millwall (622730) | more than 6 years ago | (#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? :-)

Re:We don't want it (4, Insightful)

Corporate Drone (316880) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:We don't want it (2, Interesting)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737798)

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 help another company establish the validity of a patent. Apple, for example, wanted a patent for one-click from Amazon even though it is unlikely that they actually needed it.

Re:We don't want it (2, Interesting)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738506)

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 gets reported when the claims are so outrageous or so painfully obvious. But, this makes up an increasingly small portion of the patents currently in force. Many companies see great value in some patents.

I've patented a ... stick ... with ... buttons. (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737674)

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? (3, Interesting)

molex333 (1230136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737698)

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:jealous much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738122)

I play guitar and I have built a few. I have other friends who are the same on that note. We have all tried to play Guitar Hero and all failed at it miserably - even on songs that we can ACTUALLY PLAY!

However, our friends that do NOT play instruments kick ass at Guitar Hero. Actually, it seems to me, and some of my friends, that the better one is at guitar, the worse they are at Guitar Hero.

I'm not sure how this diminishes the talent pool for future works to be piggy-backed off of by suits who can't play, but would in fact think that the pool of actual musicians diminishes the market for people that will play Guitar Hero.

Re:jealous much? (1)

wanderingknight (1103573) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738348)

That's why me, a bass guitar player, can't stand playing Guitar Hero in anything else than the PS2 gamepad.

Re:jealous much? (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739034)

I'm pretty sub-par at both. Does that fit with your findings? :P

Patent Holders are like Trolls... (4, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Patent Holders are like Trolls... (1)

gumpish (682245) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738934)

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 (3, Informative)

Barbobot (1252798) | more than 6 years ago | (#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

new patent flood? (1)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737758)

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"?

Re:new patent flood? (1)

silent_artichoke (973182) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738580)

string X = "File a patent application"
Now I am all set.

Playing both sides (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737760)

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.

Re:Playing both sides (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737802)

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?

Re:Playing both sides (1)

Gonarat (177568) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738496)

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 include them with the computer. I am also free to design and build my own mouse or keyboard design. If I want to make a keyboard that resembles say a Datamancer [datamancer.net] Aviator and sell it as such, then I would need an agreement with Datamancer. Of course, I could always buy a keyboard from them or use a generic keyboard and avoid the need for licensing.

Delay (1)

Tsoat (1221796) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737774)

So the "Guitar Hero" franchise has been out for a pretty long time and they're only just now filing a lawsuit? Something smells fishy here

moron accusing nazi execrable of patentdead... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737790)

& blatant violations of trust including; disregard/disservice/deception for all of US/life itself. let yOUR conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071229/ap_on_sc/ye_climate_records;_ylt=A0WTcVgednZHP2gB9wms0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080108/ts_alt_afp/ushealthfrancemortality;_ylt=A9G_RngbRIVHsYAAfCas0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A [nytimes.com]

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

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dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

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the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

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meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

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whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

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& pretending that it isn't happening here;

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all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

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From the patent..."audio" signal. (5, Insightful)

ILuvSP (625676) | more than 6 years ago | (#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!

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737862)

I suppose MIDI synthesizers don't product audio signal either.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (1)

Saurian_Overlord (983144) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737998)

What does that have to do with anything? GH controller != MIDI

The GH controller is just a PS2 controller inside a guitar-shaped body. It sends a signal with a button press just like any other game does. Granted, if you really wanted to (and it has been done), you can use the GH guitar as a MIDI controller connected to a PC, but your sound card or other MIDI hardware would have to do the synthesizing. A series of relatively simple buttons and switches does not constitute an instrument.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738024)

A series of relatively simple buttons and switches does not constitute an instrument.

The makers of jugs [wikipedia.org] and washboards [wikipedia.org] would like to ask how you define a musical instrument.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (3, Informative)

ILuvSP (625676) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738006)

I suppose MIDI synthesizers don't product audio signal either.

The Guitar Hero guitar is nothing but a guitar shaped controller. It sends button presses that is on no way different than a regular hand-held controller. Only its shape is different.

Now if the guitar did output MIDI, then I guess the patent would be marginally closer to applying, but it doesn't.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (0)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738068)

Ah, but the electrical signals sent by the controller do produce a sound. That the sound-producing part is in the main box rather than in the handheld part is just a quirk of the implementation. If the controller played the sound out of its own speaker, would that change anything?

The essence of the game is not whether the music is being created by the controller or the box. It is whether or not the player is in control of the playing, and in the case of Guitar Hero, he is.

In a game like DDR, the player is not in control of the playback at all and must simply react, but in GH the player can play notes at any time whether the game prompts him for it or not.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738232)

In a game like DDR, the player is not in control of the playback at all and must simply react, but in GH the player can play notes at any time whether the game prompts him for it or not.
What GH have you been playing? If you try to play notes when you are not supposed to, all you get is a generic *twang* noise to indicate you misplayed. You cannot freestyle in GH.

How about you actually know what you're talking about before posting?

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738276)

And *twang* is not music?

Ain'cha never heard of no banjo, son?

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (1)

lonesome_coder (1166023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738716)

Twang is music.

A palm mute gone horribly wrong, mis-pick or string snapping sound is not...unless you are on some really good shit.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (1)

XavidX (1117783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738310)

What GH have you been playing? If you try to play notes when you are not supposed to, all you get is a generic *twang* noise to indicate you misplayed. You cannot freestyle in GH.

And if I were to define a insrument, I would define it as something that you can freestlye in. An instrument is something you can create music from. Not imitate and *twang* noises. I cannot see how this can violate this patent.

guitar hero is a great game. Im currently working on finishing the hard career.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (1)

Lobster Quadrille (965591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738242)

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but in my drunken nights of playing guitar hero, I never found a way to play notes whether the game prompts you or not. It's completely reactive, like DDR. It just makes nasty noises at you for choosing to play Anarchy in the UK with a ska rhythm.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (1)

Lyrael (1196443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738830)

In a game like DDR, the player is not in control of the playback at all and must simply react, but in GH the player can play notes at any time whether the game prompts him for it or not.

That would be Donkey Konga you're thinking of, trying to play notes in Guitar Hero that the game's not prompting you to play results in a loss of points/note streak and a nasty noise which is the same no matter which button you press. Monotone nasty noises != notes/music.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22739050)

but in GH the player can play notes at any time whether the game prompts him for it or not.

No. In Guitar Hero the player can only play notes when the game prompts him to. Attempting to play notes at other times doesn't generate a note and reduces your score.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (1)

frieko (855745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738110)

MIDI instruments make music. Guitar hero plays a pre-recorded track and you get points if you can keep time with it. That's not making music.

Re:From the patent..."audio" signal. (1)

zehaeva (1136559) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738338)

AFAIK they do, they synthesize an audio signal. A guitar hero controller outputs only a "BUTTON 1 PRESSED" signal, nothing audio to that at all.

We're in real trouble (5, Funny)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.)

Let the word play commence (1)

livingdeadline (884462) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737950)

I'm still waiting for the new Jimmy Page signature Les Foul [wikipedia.org] ... and everybody knows that SG [wikipedia.org] stands for Shitgabber.

I don't get it (3, Interesting)

DrXym (126579) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Isn't it IRONIC (1)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738298)

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.

Making claims on the moon (1)

rcastro0 (241450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738426)

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 short words not because they knew what to do with it, but simply because they thought in the future someone would know.

And if that strategy does exist, how about some brainstorming to come up with a number of patented concepts which we cannot implement yet (or haven't)? Perhaps:
  • Battery operated, microchip controlled, geo-located self-guided electric helicopter for small package delivery, point-to-point, with or without recharging stations to allow for long-distance ranges;
  • Body-implanted digital assistant with low-radiation tele-communication capabilities and direct interface with the body's neural pathways, offering capabilities which include, but are not limited to, mathematical calculations, random access database, exchange of messages (vocal or textual) with remote hosts or peers and entertainment;
  • 360 degrees angle-of-capture wearable movie-recorder camera system, with a redundant array of low-cost capture devices around the wearer's body and software to transform the input from the various mics and lenses into a clear 360 degrees projection of the environment visited and/or interacted with.

Re:Making claims on the moon (2, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738756)

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 monopolies, which enable them to lay a heavy tax on the industry of the country, without contributing anything to the real advancement of the arts."

What's the problem?? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738434)

"A musician can simulate participation in a concert by playing a musical instrument and wearing a head-mounted 3D display that includes stereo speakers"

A) the controller used in "Guitar Hero" can hardly be called a "musical instrument". If it is, so is a computer keyboard, a joystick, or a mouse.

B) last I checked, "Guitar Hero" doesn't require wearing a "head-mounted 3D display that includes stereo speakers".

So, what exactly is infringing?

Air Guitar ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738562)

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

Wrong Gibson... (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738824)

<braveheart>You may take our intellectual property, but you'll never take...our FREEDOM!!!</braveheart>

Great work (1)

mattpointblank (936343) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738918)

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 needs to pay (1)

wardk (3037) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739010)

to knock off Stratocasters and Les Pauls

why should they get a free ride on other's designs?

pay Gibson and Fender royalties for using their assets for profit.

that or make a generic guitar no one wants.

Wait a second.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22739030)

Guitar Hero features controllers shaped like Gibson guitars, licensed by Gibson, and Gibson is featured all through the game..... so why are they biting the hand that feeds them?

To bite the hand that feeds. (1)

Devir (671031) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739040)

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 competitor guitars.

I would also like to step into a future prediction: The Lawyers will be blamed for acting on their own, the case will be dropped and swept under the carpet in an official statement within the next few days.
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