(Adds details of lawsuit, Gibson's claims, company comment,
By Scott Hillis and Gina Keating
SAN FRANCISCO/LOS ANGELES, March 12 Gibson
Guitar Inc has told Activision Inc (ATVI.O) that its wildly
popular "Guitar Hero" video games infringe one of Gibson's
patents, and Activision has asked a U.S. court to find the
Gibson said the games, in which players press buttons on a
guitar-shaped controller in time with notes on a TV screen,
violates a 1999 patent for technology to simulate a musical
On Tuesday, Activision filed a lawsuit asking the U.S.
District Court for Central California to declare Gibson's
patent invalid and to bar it from seeking damages.
Gibson made its claims in a letter sent to Activision in
January, a copy of which was included in Activision's lawsuit.
Activision shares closed down 1.14 percent at $26.82 on
Nasdaq on Wednesday.
The "Guitar Hero" series has sold more than 14 million
units in North America and raked in more than $1 billion since
its 2005 debut.
Gibson, whose electric guitars are used by legendary blues
and rock artists such as Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Slash, has
been a high-profile partner in the "Guitar Hero" games, with
Activision licensing the rights to model its controllers on
Gibson guitar models and to use their likenesses in the game.
"Gibson is a good partner, and we have a great deal of
respect for them. We disagree with the applicability of their
patent and would like a legal determination on this,"
Activision general counsel George Rose said in a statement.
Gibson could not be reached for comment.
A copy of Gibson's patent included in the court filing
showed a method for simulating a live performance using a
musical instrument, a 3D headset with stereo speakers, and a
"Based on our preliminary analysis, the 'Guitar Hero'
software (including any expansion packs) and the guitar
controller provided by Activision being used as a musical
instrument (packaged with the software or sold standalone) are
covered by the ... patent," Gibson's law firm said in its Jan.
7 letter. "Gibson requests that Activision obtain a license
under Gibson's ... patent or halt sales of any version of the
'Guitar Hero' game software."
Activision said its games did not infringe Gibson's patent,
and that by waiting three years to raise its claim, the guitar
maker had granted an implied license for any technology.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Toni Reinhold)