Guitar maker adds stores in ‘Guitar Hero’ lawsuit

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Guitar manufacturer Gisbon Guitar has now added six major retailers to its lawsuit against Activision’s Guitar Hero. The stores are Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, Gamestop, Toys-R-Us and Amazon.

The decision to add them to the lawsuit was made “reluctantly”, according to a statement released by the manufacturer.

The latest move, which was filed on Monday, has been criticized by Activision.

“Our Guitar Hero retailing partners have done nothing wrong,” it 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.”

The lawsuit was launched earlier this month as Gisbon claims that it violates a 1999 patent for a “virtual-reality guitar-playing device” that could “simulate(s) participation in a concert by playing a musical instrument and wearing a head-mounted 3-D display that includes stereo speakers.” The copy of this patent was included in its original lawsuit – and it is indeed dated on November 23, 1999.

Activision filed for declaratory relief on March 11, claiming that the lawsuit came after the game publisher terminated a marketing deal with the guitar manufacturer. In the filing, it says that Gisbon “waited three years to make its patent allegations” and only started the lawsuit after it was not interested in renewing the current “marketing and support agreement”.

It also says that Gisbon’s claims were disingenuous and lack any justification.

The lawsuit brings 10 defendants to lawsuit; with MTV Networks, Electronics Arts and Harmonix being added to the list with the six retailers and Activision today. All three are involved with the game “Rock Band”, which is based on “Guitar Hero”, but also includes vocal, bass guitar and drums into the gameplay.

Representatives for all three companies that have been recently added have declined to comment. Harmonix created and developed some of the games in the “Guitar Hero” franchise.

Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock has been released in Australia, but the hybrid disc for Mac and PC has been delayed; with Rock Band coming out in Q2 2008.