The lawsuits are beginning to fly in the battle between The Ant Commandos (TAC), who design and manufacture gaming peripherals and RedOctane, publisher of Guitar Hero and subsidiary of Activision.
Activision threw out the first volley when they sued TAC for "unfair competition, trademark infringement, copyright infringement, unfair and deceptive trade practices, false advertising, unjust enrichment and more." Now TAC has filed a counter suit claiming that Activision and RedOctane "copied the identifiable trade dress of the [guitar] controller from its developer and part owner of TAC, Topway Electrical Appliance, Co."
The photo you see at top is the "Magical Guitar," which according to TAC was designed in 1999 for Konami's GuitarFreak. TAC claims between 2001 and 2004 that representatives from RedOctane, including the CEO and top sales manager at the time, visited the Topway factory where the "Magical Guitar" was being produced asking questions regarding its design. TAC also claims that between 2002 and 2004, RedOctane "purchased several hundred of the Magical Guitars from Topway prior to producing the [SG] controllers themselves." In 2005 RedOctane produced the Guitar Hero SG controller -- if the picture submitted as evidence in the lawsuit holds up in court, the only obvious identifiable design difference between the SG controller and the "Magical Guitar" is the missing whammy bar. However, TAC and Topway do not have a U.S. patent on the "Magical Guitar" controller.
In addition to the suit, TAC has filed for an injunction asking Activision and RedOctane from infringing on the "trade dress" developed by Topway and separating the Guitar Hero bundle to allow for fair competition. Currently, the SG controller is bundled with Guitar Hero.
RedOctane did not return requests for comment. Full press release after the break.
See also: RedOctane rocks the courthouse