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 Amazon.com. 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:
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. Wired.com has a good write-up:
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.