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Back in February 2021 we wrote an article about how Ironburg Inventions (a subsidiary of Corsair Gaming) were suing Valve for the Steam Controller and Valve has now firmly lost the case. As a brief reminder to save clicking around: Ironburg hold a patent on a controller with two buttons on the back, they sued Valve since the Steam Controller has back paddles.

In the new ruling that can be seen here, Judge Thomas S. Zilly has denied Valve's attempt to have a new trial and overturn the initial jury decision of $4,029,533.93 in damages. Overall it didn't go too well with Valve's defence stating how it was "about as straightforward a patent case as you could ever hope to get" and that the jury would have "no trouble making the right decision at the end of this case" based on the Steam Controller and the Patent. Zilly mentioned "The Court agrees that this case is straightforward and can be decided on the ’525 Patent and the accused device. The jury appears to have done exactly that, but defendant does not like the result the jury reached. Defendant’s dissatisfaction does not constitute grounds for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial." — ouch.

Not ideal for Valve, however, the judge also decided that Valve's infringement wasn't enough to award enhanced damages which could have been a real disaster. For Valve though, is four million dollars a lot? They print money thanks to Steam, so not likely. Since Valve no longer produce the Steam Controller, cutting their losses here is probably a good idea.

As it turns out, the previous hints of a new Steam Controller that might have come with four back-buttons appears to not be happening either. In the court documents we can see developers from Valve clearly mention the four-button approach did not survive their original iterative design process after many tests. Shame. I absolutely loved the Steam Controller, so a new version that got around the patent issues with a tweaked design would have been ideal. Well, at least we shall have the upcoming SteamPal console perhaps.

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36 comments
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BielFPs 1 Jun
Shame that I'll never have a chance to even hold one in my hands. I don't know the details, is Valve really copied some patent protected project, or this is one of those "patent trolls" that worked in this case?
CatKiller 1 Jun
Quoting: BielFPsShame that I'll never have a chance to even hold one in my hands. I don't know the details, is Valve really copied some patent protected project, or this is one of those "patent trolls" that worked in this case?
There isn't copying with patents: it just isn't a factor. A patent is saying "this person invented this thing and gets first dibs" even if someone else invents the same thing later. The trade off for getting first dibs is that you need to document exactly how it works (rather than keeping it secret) so that everyone else can use it once the first dibs period finishes.

That's the idea, anyway.


Last edited by CatKiller on 1 June 2021 at 5:21 pm UTC
TheSHEEEP 1 Jun
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Should probably hold onto my Steam Controller in case they become a collectors' item, huh?
MayeulC 1 Jun
Well, they could just license the patent, that's what those are for in theory. It certainly looks like straightforward pattent infringment. Note that you do not have to know of a patent to infringe.

On the other hand, one could wonder if the patent was legitimate in the first place. If you can find prior art, that invalidates it, for instance.

Here (France), there are a few conditions before submitting a pattent, if any is found to be unfullfilled, the patent is invalidated:

* It's a new thing (no prior art)
* It has industrial use (can be manufactured or used in the industry)
* It's actually an inventive and original thing. It must not be obvious to someone working in the field.

I'm a bit circumspect regarding the last one. Maybe that condition just isn't there in the U.S? It might be hard to prove in any case.

Patent US8641525B2 was filled in 2011, so it will expire in 2031. However, if anyone finds prior art, the patent can be invalidated. I'm not sure what constitutes prior art, as the pattent is quite narrow, but surely there were controllers that used the other fingers at some point in the past?

Edit: found that brand, though it seems to match the date quite closely, so it might actually be the same guys.


Last edited by MayeulC on 1 June 2021 at 5:51 pm UTC
What is specified in the pattent? Because back buttons can be quite a large concept, imo... Even the back paddles of a Logitech G25/G27/G29 (example) may be considered back buttons, to some level, and it's been in use way before 2014. But I'm no pattent specialist, so...


Last edited by Mohandevir on 1 June 2021 at 6:30 pm UTC
CatKiller 1 Jun
Quoting: MohandevirWhat is specified in the pattent?

It's specifically having paddles on the back of a standard controller. The patent is here, for those that are interested.
Joeg1484 1 Jun
The judge should have made the damages $4M in Steam game discounts instead! Would have been worth more ;)
Quoting: CatKiller
Quoting: MohandevirWhat is specified in the pattent?

It's specifically having paddles on the back of a standard controller. The patent is here, for those that are interested.

Yep... Had a look... Just moving my answer here:

Ironburg Inventions didn't create back buttons, they just adapted something that was already used elsewhere. The pattent is giving way to much importance to the container instead of the content. Oh well... Pattents...
CatKiller 1 Jun
Quoting: MohandevirIronburg Inventions didn't create back buttons, they just adapted something that was already used elsewhere.

Well, to be fair, an innovative arrangement of existing things is legit patent material, and Valve did try using buttons rather than paddles and found that it wasn't as good.

QuoteOh well... Pattents...
Yep.
Geez. I know with absolute certainty that a decade or so ago I had a controller with back buttons like this. No idea if I've still got it, might look for it. Something like a gioteck maybe?
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