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Valve to lose $4 million for patent infringement with the Steam Controller

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Valve are yet again hitting the spotlight for the wrong reasons following the ruling from the EU Commission over geo-blocking, a lawsuit involving game pricing and now the Steam Controller too.

The lawsuit involved Ironburg Inventions (a subsidiary of Corsair Gaming), who have a patent for a game controller that has back paddles and they've held the patent since 2014. According to the press release, Valve lost the case and so "the jury unanimously found that Valve Corp infringed Ironburg’s 8,641,525 controller patent and awarded Ironburg over $4 million" additionally Valve were apparently aware of it and so the infringement was "willful". Due to this, there's a potential for "enhanced damages up to the statutory limit of treble damages" so the $4 million figure is only the beginning.

Any company that wishes to have back paddles, are then required to license the tech from Ironburg Inventions Ltd which is exactly what Microsoft does for their special Xbox Elite Controller.

The Steam Controller (sadly) was discontinued back in 2019. It was my favourite controller, and I still hope they bring out a proper second generation. Perhaps this was a big supporting reason for why they no longer continued with it? Probably not though, since they're now into VR hardware instead where there's likely a lot more monies.

If they do a second generation, perhaps they will be a little bit more careful with licensing next time and I will still happily be first in line if they do another.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Hardware, Misc, Valve
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64 comments
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I am surprised to see two negative comments regarding the Steam Controller's back buttons here. I love them. Not only can they be assigned unique button mappings i.e. not just the buttons available on the controller like it is with other controllers, but they can be used for mode shifting too. Back buttons should be the standard on all controllers!
Linas 3 Feb
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Quoting: EhvisAnother demonstration of how broken the patent system is. There nothing in that patent that isn't entirely trivial. Basically "let's put a button where an unused finger rests". I'm surprised that Valve's lawyers didn't manage to get this thrown out because I highly doubt that this is original.
Also the paddles on a Steam Controller is actually a single battery compartment cover that doubles as clickable buttons. The controller would still be 100% functional if you remove/break/throw away the cover. Also it is replaceable, which the patent does not say anything about.

I am really surprised all this was not enough to consider it sufficiently different, but a trivial button placement was enough to be patent-worthy. Either their lawyers are completely incompetent, or they simply consider it cheaper to not pursue this further.


Last edited by Linas on 3 February 2021 at 12:31 pm UTC
dubigrasu 3 Feb
Quoting: JuliusAnd the back-paddle buttons are probably the most useless part of the Steam controller anyways...
They may feel this way to you, but I feel the total opposite.
For me they are the best feature, along ofc with the right pad and the gyro. Whenever I use another controller it feels totally crippled in my hands without them.

Edit: And also I'm bummed that the 4-back buttons version of the SC didn't materialized.


Last edited by dubigrasu on 3 February 2021 at 12:34 pm UTC
In this comment section: "It's corsair and the patent offices fault! Valve did nothing wrong!"

Patents like the one Corsair Gaming holds are legitimate because Paddles on a normal controller hadn't been done before, and it's pretty reasonable for them to patent that kind of design functionality. Patent fraud only really applies to stuff that is insanely generic, or impossible to make, neither of which qualifies this paddles patent. It's no different to patenting a specific controller design.

Valve are not your friends, please stop trying to blame literally everyone but the company doing the wrong.
Quoting: DribbleondoIn this comment section: "It's corsair and the patent offices fault! Valve did nothing wrong!"

Patents like the one Corsair Gaming holds are legitimate because Paddles on a normal controller hadn't been done before, and it's pretty reasonable for them to patent that kind of design functionality. Patent fraud only really applies to stuff that is insanely generic, or impossible to make, neither of which qualifies this paddles patent. It's no different to patenting a specific controller design.

Valve are not your friends, please stop trying to blame literally everyone but the company doing the wrong.
Negatory. Back buttons have been done before. It is completely unreasonable to patent a "feature" like this that is so breathtakingly banal.

SCUF are not your friends. Please stop trying to blame literally everyone but the company doing the wrong.
gabber 3 Feb
Quoting: DribbleondoIn this comment section: "It's corsair and the patent offices fault! Valve did nothing wrong!"

Patents like the one Corsair Gaming holds are legitimate because Paddles on a normal controller hadn't been done before, and it's pretty reasonable for them to patent that kind of design functionality. Patent fraud only really applies to stuff that is insanely generic, or impossible to make, neither of which qualifies this paddles patent. It's no different to patenting a specific controller design.

Valve are not your friends, please stop trying to blame literally everyone but the company doing the wrong.

It's not about which company is behind what. The patent is a joke.

We are talking about button placement. Not months of R&D work and thousands of hours honing something out. It's only "put button there", worth: 4 million.
denyasis 3 Feb
Valve used a different entities IP for thier own uses?!?!

Color me shocked!!!!
Quoting: JuliusAnd the back-paddle buttons are probably the most useless part of the Steam controller anyways...

So true... In all games I turn them off because I keep unwillingly activating them... It's usefull for racing games (paddle shift), else, it's quite useless, for my part too.
mirv 3 Feb
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While my own personal view is that that patent is bogus (as in the concept of the patent of a back button, not the particular design used in a particular device which is copyright or trademarked or something instead of a patent), that's really immaterial to the finding it seems.

The patent was granted, silly as it is, and it does seem that Valve knew about it and ignored it. Of course if there's evidence that Valve tried to invalidate the patent prior to making their own controller, or can prove due diligence in finding prior art or anything else that would render the patent invalid, then that's a different story. I wasn't sitting in on the case or anything, so I'll just go by press releases instead.

Whether you agree with the patent or not (I'll guess most won't), the approach by Valve was most definitely wrong in every legal sense. It was also willful. So they've got nobody to blame but themselves in this matter.

In general though, problems like this will stifle competition and innovation, and is likely to be one reason the Steam Controller has gone away. My guess is that it won't be back anytime soon, if at all. I sense Valve jumping ship for all things hardware related - they're just not set up to handle it.
Beamboom 3 Feb
I have to admit, however much I loved the look and idea of the Steam controller, I quite soon after returned to my Logitech controller again with the classic controller setup.

There's just something about a physical stick that can't be replaced with a touchpad.
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