Harmonix
Music Systems, Inc. and Mad Catz, Inc. v. AI Automation LLC
District of Massachusetts, Case No. 15-CV-14138
Filed December 14, 2015

and
AI
Automation LLC v. Harmonix Music Systems, Inc., Mad Catz, Inc., and GameStop
Corp.
Eastern District of Texas, Case No. 2:15-cv-2109
Filed December 23, 2015

Patent owner AIA (not to be confused with the America Invents Act) accuses
Harmonix et al. of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,388,181 (“Computer Graphic
Animation, Live Video Interactive Method for Playing Keyboard Music”) with the
most recent game in the Rock Band franchise, Rock Band 4.

The ‘181 Patent
concerns software for teaching a user to play the piano without the need for
sheet music. Exemplary claim 26 recites:
A method for displaying a musical score to a
user of a musical instrument having a plurality of keys comprising the steps
of:
graphically depicting an object
corresponding to a note to be played, the graphical position including a
position relative to the key to be actuated, the graphical depiction of the
note including a depiction of the method of attack of the play of the note, and
a temporal dimension indicating both the
time for actuation of the note and the duration of the activation of the note.

AIA acquired
the ‘181 Patent in January 2014, and this is the third round of lawsuits
related to the ‘181 Patent since the acquisition.  AIA sued Harmonix in
March 2014, alleging infringement of the ‘181 Patent by Rock Band 3 and
the controller accessories to the game.  Harmonix settled that case for a
confidential sum in June 2014.  AIA also sued Activision Blizzard and Best
Buy in November 2014, alleging that several games in the Guitar Hero
franchise infringed the patent; that case confidentially settled in January
2015.
AIA allegedly
began threatening litigation in regards to Rock Band 4 in October 2015
and demanded that Harmonix license the ‘181 Patent. Harmonix responded by
filing the first present case, seeking declaratory judgment of patent
noninfringement. AIA immediately filed the second present case, accusing
Harmonix of willful infringement with regards to Rock Band 4.

We will
continue to monitor this case and report any interesting developments.
Thanks to Daniel Douglas for preparation of this case note.
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