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Viacom loses appeal over ongoing Rock Band dispute

By | Published on Monday 22 July 2013


The Delaware Supreme Court last week upheld a lower court ruling regards the legal squabble between MTV owner Viacom and the former shareholders of ‘Rock Band’ game maker Harmonix.

As previously reported, Viacom bought the gaming company and the ‘Rock Band’ franchise in 2006. In competition with ‘Guitar Hero’, the ‘Rock Band’ games seemed to do well initially, but the bubble soon burst in the pretend-to-play gaming genre, and the media conglom sold the entire Harmonix business in 2010, reportedly for less than a dollar.

But, despite the gaming brand crashing out (and reports that Viacom never made a profit from the ‘Rock Band’ product), the original investors in Harmonix said they were due so called earn-out payments based on the performance of the franchise in 2007 and 2008, as agreed in the 2006 acquisition deal. Viacom, though, said nothing was owed and, in fact, it was due a refund on an initial earn-out payment that was too high with hindsight.

A Delaware court ruled last August that the Harmonix investors were in the right, and ordered Viacom to pay out $299 million plus interest. Viacom appealed to the state’s Supreme Court, but last week judges there backed the lower court ruling. It remains to be seen if the media firm now tries to take the case to the US Supreme Court.