Ubisoft Entertainment, S.A., v. Guitar Apprentice, Inc.
Northern District of California
Filed November 24, 2014
In a new case, Ubisoft asserts U.S. Pat. No. 8,835,736 against Guitar Apprentice.  The ‘736 patent is generally directed to a video game that teaches a player how to play guitar.  Unlike Rock Band and Guitar Hero, the system of the ‘736 patent instructs the player to strum chords using the proper strings and frets.  Claim 14 is representative and recites:
According to the complaint, Guitar Apprentice makes a product called “Guitar Apprentice Rock Roots Edition.”  The accused product is not an interactive video game.  Instead, it is an instructional DVD that guides the user to play along with a song:
Image from “How to Play Guitar Apprentice!”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vgfOtIeAeQ

The claims of the ‘736 patent do not appear to be limited to video games.  Instead, the independent claims recite entirely non-interactive features of displaying and “cueing.”  Some dependent claims (e.g., “displaying a score of the player” in claim 3) recite more familiar features of interactive games.

Ubisoft and Guitar Apprentice are currently engaged in litigation over one of Guitar Apprentice’s patents, U.S. Pat. No. 8,586,849, which is generally directed to a system for progressive instruction in playing a guitar.  See case no. 2-13-cv-02903 (W.D. Tenn., filed November 19, 2013).  Ubisoft recently filed a petition for Inter Partes Review with the USPTO regarding the ‘849 patent.  See IPR 2015-00298, filed November 25, 2014.

We will continue to watch this case for any interesting developments.