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Group Sues Activision Over Allegedly Deceptive Patent Practices
Group Sues Activision Over Allegedly Deceptive Patent Practices
February 22, 2010 | By Kris Graft

February 22, 2010 | By Kris Graft
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More: Console/PC



Most people overlook the tiny patent-related print on products sold in the U.S., but a group calling itself the Patent Compliance Group has been paying close attention.

On February 12, the group sued Guitar Hero publisher Activision for allegedly labeling Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero, Guitar Hero Smash Hits, and DJ Hero with patent numbers whose respective patent descriptions don't cover the scope of the product. Those actions intentionally deceived the public, according to the PCG.

The group also alleged that Activision labeled those games as "patent pending" or "patent applied for" when that was not the case, and said Activision wrongfully put those patent markings on advertising as well.

The PCG is seeking an award of "not more than $500 for each of Defendant's violations." Half of the money won would go to PCG, while the other half would go to the U.S. government, the filing said.

That means that each unit sold of any of the music titles in question could incur up to a $500 penalty, which would amount to an enormous sum of money if Activision is found to be in violation. Guitar Hero 5 reportedly sold around 1 million units alone in its first four months since its September 2009 launch.

"False patent marking is a serious problem," reads the PCG's complaint, which was obtained by Gamasutra. "Acts of false marking deter innovation and stifle competition in the marketplace. If an article that is within the public domain is falsely marked, potential competitors may be dissuaded from entering the same market."

The suit was filed in a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas by PCG as a "qui tam" action, a legal action in which members of the public can sue on behalf of the government, and potentially receive all or part of the damages awarded. Activision said that it does not comment on pending litigation.

Activision isn't the only company that the PCG has sued in recent days. The group also filed suit against Timex and Brunswick on February 12, and against Wright Medical Technology on the 16th.


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Comments


Andrew Swain
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"Acts of false marking deter innovation"

Stopping people from copying you is deterring innovation?



And if didn't actually stop the PCG from making something, why in the hell should they make money from this?

What damages exactly did they incur?

sam darley
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Is there any precedent for this kind of thing sticking, or are they just pissing in the wind?

Geoff Schardein
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Filed in Texas should say it all, Texas is noted for actions against corporations and lots of patent trolls use the Texas courts. It seems to me there is big money in this kind of action, even if the PCG gets Activision or others to settle for a fraction of the amount PCG makes a lot of money. It looks to me yet another case of who has deep pockets, how can we sue them and relieve them of some of that money to line our own pockets. The sad fact is suing like this is now a business strategy.

J Z
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I think its funny the PCG would get the money for such a lawsuit. If there was scrupulous marketing on the part of Activision which blocked competitors with a non-existant patent why would the group be taking half of what might be a 5 million dollar law suit? Seems like there would be government agencies for such a claim and Activision would be paying a set fine. I guess that is the free market doing its own checks and balances for you.

John Petersen
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I don't think a patent or patent pending needs to cover the entire scope of a product to use a patent or patent pending notice, just something in the product... I think. Also, you can use a patent pending notice even if all you did was send in an application.


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