Gibson turns volume up to 11 with new 'Guitar Hero' lawsuit

Iconic guitar manufacturer, which is already suing Activision over alleged patent infringement, has filed suit against six retailers that sell the game series.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
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Gibson is none too happy about Activision's 'Guitar Hero' pictured here. Activision

This post was updated at 4:12 AM on Monday to reflect the fact that Gibson has added MTV, Harmonix, and EA to the list of plaintiffs.

Legendary guitar manufacturer Gibson Guitar has sued six major retailers--Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, Amazon.com, Gamestop, and Toys-R-Us--for selling Activision's Guitar Hero video game series, MarketWatch reported Friday.

The decision was made "reluctantly," according to a statement from Gibson.

Earlier this month, Gibson sued Activision over Guitar Hero, claiming that the game violated a 1999 patent for a virtual-reality guitar-playing device that "simulate(s) participation in a concert by playing a musical instrument and wearing a head-mounted 3-D display that includes stereo speakers." A copy of the patent included in Gibson's original lawsuit is indeed dated November 23, 1999.

Activision filed for declaratory relief on March 11, claiming that Gibson's lawsuit came about after the video game publisher nixed a marketing deal with the guitar manufacturer. "Gibson waited three years to make its patent allegations, and only did so after it became clear that Activision was not interested in renewing its marketing and support agreement with Gibson," the Activision filing stated. "Activision continues to believe that Gibson's claims are disingenuous and lack any justification."

But in Gibson's latest move, filed Monday, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company has chosen to target retailers as well--a tactic that Activision quickly criticized.

"Our Guitar Hero retailing partners have done nothing wrong," Activision said in a statement. "We will confront this and any other efforts by Gibson to wrongfully interfere with Activision's relationship with its customers and its consumers."

On Friday, Gibson made it clear that it's after any guitar-playing game, as it added MTV, Harmonix, and Electronic Arts to the list of plaintiffs. MTV, which acquired Guitar Hero developer Harmonix in 2006, uses EA as the distributor for its Rock Band game. Rock Band, a Guitar Hero competitor that was released last November, allows players to team up on vocals, bass, and drums in addition to guitar.