Gibson headquarters. I’m sure some rational thought is going on in there, but search me to tell you what the (*&$# that thought is. Photo via mmwm

Gibson Guitar may require a new column here on CDM, titled something like “what the $&*((*&$ can you possibly be thinking??!”

Sure, it was strange enough when Gibson started a patent dispute with Guitar Hero game developer Activision because it claimed to own the patent for anything “simulating a musical concert experience.” (Jeez, I’m glad Gibson hasn’t been to a couple of my gigs.) Never mind that their patent involved pre-recorded concert footage and a head-mounted virtual reality apparatus and had no similarity whatsoever to Guitar Hero. Never mind that they’ve waited years into this franchise, almost a decade into their patent, and over a decade into music games to both to notice.

Now things get weirder.

Gibson is suing Harmonix, developer of Rock Band. (Unlike Guitar Hero, Rock Band appears to lack a Gibson instrument license — but the suit covers Gibson’s supposed game patents, not Gibson’s guitars.)

And they’re suing Viacom, because Viacom is Harmonix’s corporate parent.

And they’re suing Electronic Arts, the publisher.

And they’re suing GameStop. And And Toys ‘R Us. And Target. And Kmart.

And they’re suing Wal-Mart. (Oh, I’m sure that will end well. I can’t imagine Wal-Mart is a big outfit with armies of lawyers or anything like that.)

Joystiq has some coverage of the situation:

Gibson sues Harmonix, Viacom, EA over Guitar Hero

Gibson lays lawsuit on GameStop, other major retailers

At this point, I’d do a little evil air guitar solo to provide a soundtrack to this whole story, except I’m fairly certain Gibson might sue me for simulating a musical performance.

Hey, Gibson — got a little tip for you. Guitar Center also sells Rock Band. Any reason you’re not suing them? Ah, okay, at least at some point some surviving sense of self interests intervenes.

It’s ironic, too, because other manufacturers see these wildly-popular music games as very good for music making. Rock Band and Guitar Hero were all over the NAMM show floor, partly because of companies picking up endorsements, but partly because musicians seem to like playing the game. It’s advertising for instruments, for music gear, for — music lessons, frankly, for any time people want to learn how to play beyond the game. And it doesn’t appear to violate any Gibson intellectual property — especially with a license for Gibson’s stuff in both games.

Cheer Up, Kids!

Okay, so Gibson is embarrassing the entire music instruments industry. On a happier note, Nintendo Wii owners get to play Rock Band June 22. (via Joystiq) And that’ll be good fun — and will unleash the hardware on the Nintendo-loving game hackers out there, meaning Synth Hero or Chiptune Hero could follow in homebrew form shortly thereafter.

Real music making — also a very fun way to pass the time. Try it with friends.

What’s not fun? Lawsuits. “Lawsuit Hero” will not be coming to an Xbox 360 / PS3 soon.

Updated: I incorrectly said Gibson sued Activision; that’s not true. Activision actually pre-emptively sued Gibson to try to invalidate their patent after Gibson threatened Activision with a patent violation and tried to get partners to “license” their supposed patent. As readers have noted, this is a bizarre case of biting the hand that feeds, given that Gibson had partnered with Activision on the game’s hardware, software, and promotion. has a good write-up:

Gibson Sues Viacom, EA Over Rock Band (Update)

Suffice to say, this could have a chilling effect on the entire music software development community if Gibson wins. Everything from indie music games to Apple’s MainStage could be said to simulate music performance.

  • sef

    hahahaha! that's a gibson guitar add courtesy of google beneath your article… oh wow… just, wow.

  • Add this to the long list of reasons why I will never purchase another Gibson (or subsidiary) product. Vive le Opcode! (or Oberheim or…)

  • Someone correct me if Im wrong, but didnt guitar center RUN a Gibson/Guitar Hero promotional tie in when rock band launched? You got a FREE gibson guitar when buying the fucker!! Could've this even have happened WITHOUT some kind of Gibson approval?

    I guess this is just another case of negotiationating licensing agreements through litigation, but I too am one bewildered peter.

  • Adam

    Wow… What a great way to make people hate you. I hope they waste a ton of money in court and really feel some pain from this.

    The best response as a consumer is to boycott Gibson products IMO

  • They might later sue Activision due to lost sales of Gibson electrical guitars due to Guitar Hero… –Kent

  • Vlad

    Erm… I just can't get then, why did the Gibson pavillion at this year's CES had some 2 or 3 machines with Guitar Hero and the stuff nearly urged visitors to try their hands at the game. I mean, that was January — does that mean they didn't understand they hold the patent at that time? (not talking about the credibility of their patent claims)

  • Vlad: your question can be answered in one word: lawyers.

    This "Gibson" should not be confused with the Gibson who made pioneering guitars such as the Les Paul and Explorer. Those are still owned by "Gibson", but they are no longer guitars, they are pieces of "intellectual property" to be bartered and licensed. They lost their lawsuit against PRS over the "Singlecut" guitar, so I don't see the point of any a lawsuit over facsimile guitars.

    Has anyone asked Les Paul himself what he thinks of all this? He's still alive, well, and playing the guitar he created. 8)

  • Adrian Anders

    Someone call Phoenix Wright!

  • GUF

    You know, all this animosity towards "lawyers" is really misplaced – it's not like the lawyers decided to sue, it was Gibson management who directed the lawyers to sue. So let's redirect that anger towards those who deserve it, not the lawyers (who I'm sure play Rock Band in their off time, as every lawyer has been a failed musician at some point).

  • guidedbyVOIP

    Question? Does Gibson use the same law firm as Metallica? Just a thought.

  • Well, I still say it was lawyers who decided there was something to sue about, in spite of precedent, and lawyers who gave their legal advice to management. Sure, we know where the buck stops, but management relies on good legal advice… and this dog won't hunt, as they used to say in Kalamazoo.

  • Motion

    Another monster in the making 😛

  • Not all publicity is good as some say here and there… Gibson will taste it first hand.

    I Hope!

  • You have to look at this from their point of view: they are a leveraged corporation with a flat revenue curve.

    If I were in charge of providing new revenues ASAP, I would definitely do this: for 500K in lawyer fees, they stand to win 10's of millions. Putting the same amount in honest guitar R&D will never produce this kind of return.

    What we need is a reform of trademark and patent law in the U.S to discourage "sawed off shotgun" litigation.

  • Vanceg

    That does it – I have now completely entered the bizarre parallel universe.

    Gibson – how pathetic can you be? Wow. I hope you don't sue me for building my own "digital guitar" (I did it first you creeps so BACKOFF!)

    Amazing. Amazing. But, they lost be as a customer and potential customer long ago.

    GuidedbyVOIP, My sides still hurt. Thank you. You HAVE to be right.

    I'll raise that glass with you Brent: "Vive Le Opcode!"

  • Bruce Landis

    Not 100% sure, but I don't think Rock Band is associated with Gibson, although Fender is. If you go to, there is a link to Rock Band. Also, the guitar controller that comes with Rock Band is a Strat, althouugh the Guitar Hero controllers (primarily Gibson designs -SG's, explorer's, etc) will apparently work with Rock Band as well.

  • Iso Top

    Eh, Bill Gates, you better call your lawyers cause you simulated a concert experience using Guitar Hero AND have Slash using a Gibson guitar.

  • LZA

    They probably decided to finally start doing something about this soul-less, devilish electronic music that just lately popped up. And they gotta start somewhere…

    “simulating a musical concert experience”…

  • Pingback: Guitar Hero: Gibson vs. the World | DIGITAL AUDIO SERVICE()

  • I’m still pissed at them about the whole PRS Single cut debacle. They seem “sue” happy. And now they’re partnering up with TC Electronic… So, could they then sue every other pedal maker, reverb maker, VST/AU/RTAS/TDM maker…?

    Sorry, no Gibson guitars here! If they want to be sh@theads, boycott the buggers!

  • ehdyn


    That picture is fuggin dope. Anybody know what kind of camera might give me results like that?

    Vive la Opcode!!!

  • ehdyn
  • Pingback: » Blog Archive » How to alienate your community()

  • I work a lot with patents, and all I can imagine is two possibilities here:

    1. Gibson’s attorneys have little prior Intellectual Property (IP) litigation experience and are flying by the seat of their pants, or more likely,

    2. Gibson, the company, somehow got it in their heads that Guitar Hero and Rock Band were infringing their useless patent and then got big dollar signs in their eyes, and told their lawyers what they wanted done.

    Here’s how I think this is going to go:

    The lawsuit against retailers will be put on hold by the judge, pending the outcome of the patent dispute.

    The patent dispute will not make it past the markman hearing, which is a type of hearing specific to IP cases in which the terms used in the patents are legally defined.

    I’m sure Viacom has some pretty smart IP attorneys on tap.

    Another piece to this puzzle is that the game makers have a very strong “Laches” argument, which basically says that Gibson has waited too long to file this lawsuit, so long that they’ve basically given up on their claims through inaction. This is especially relevant considering that Gibson has been aware of every stage of Guitar Hero’s development.

    So, that’s my peanut gallery analysis.

    Gibson is making a series of very bad decisions.

  • Thom

    no one forgets that gibson destroyed Opcode & Studio Vision some years ago. We'd be in a FAR different place if that didn't happen! luckily i don't have a boner for gibsons…

  • Paul

    and now Gibson controls another good one: TC Electronic… not good.

  • Yeah, they will kill TC too.

    Don't forget Oberheim. And almost Zeta.

    This is not really new. Gibson has sued just about everyone under the sun that has had anything to do with them for years.

  • Audiocruncher

    I used to work with this engineer who had a stint at Gibson where he worked on their Ethernet Guitar. He came away from that job with the opinion that the CEO is certifiably bonkers.

    So I"m not surprised at all their trying to sue everyone…

    Thank god I'm a keyboard player…

  • vanceg

    Barry Threw: I care less for TC than I did for Opcode/StudioVision back in the day…and less than I did for Oberheim. But I can barely imagine how they are going to kill TC: It's just too BIG isn't it? They HAVE to be able to generate income from TC, don't they? And why kill something that's sure to make them pretty decent money. Oh, yeah. Gibson. Totally bonkers and beyond any rational thought. Well, buy any TC gear you want pretty soon, because Barry's right 😉

  • i don't want to be offensive, but Gibson against the whole world including EA? hopeless idiots. it's obvious they are mazochists.

  • Wilbo

    Overpriced instruments and lawsuit happy to boot. Oh Gibson. What'll you do next?

  • Mark

    What will they do next? Well they did it already. These hypocrites re-issued 900 more guitars of an originally marketed "limited edition of only 400 guitars". Guitar collectors beware of any claims by Gibson to be a "limited edition" model. Maybe there will be 1300 lawsuits filed against Gibson for fraudulent marketing practices.

  • It is a live concert, though it is niether live and or nor but a concert. Gibson loses and or owns rights but world of patent.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » “Music Simulation” Patent Unsuccessful, Gibson Mucks Up Own Case()

  • Pingback: Facebook Patents The Newsfeed: What’s Next, Instant Messaging? | Usability Counts | User Experience, Social Media()