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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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Termy Jun 2, 2021
You know your patent system is garbage if there is a patent for fucking buttons on the back that can be successfully sued for instead of being immediately revoked by the judge...
Mal Jun 2, 2021
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Quoting: tonyrhDo you paladins really think Valve owns no patents?

Patent portfolios are a sad norm in the modern industry. It's what you do with them that makes the difference.

They are the nuclear deterrent equivalent of business, a "lawsuit weapon" arsenal that can be used both for offence and defense. I.e.: if you lawsuit me for your patent I counterlawsuit you with mines ensuring mutual destruction.

And then there are trolls. Who do what your average troll would do with a nuclear weapon. Use it to blackmail people and get some cash.

Last edited by Mal on 2 June 2021 at 9:21 pm UTC
WorMzy Jun 2, 2021
It's amazing that Valve fell afoul of this, what with the massive range of controllers Ironburg have produced over the years which utilise and tout this technology.

Oh wait.
Dunc Jun 2, 2021
Quoting: MayeulC* 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.
No, those three conditions are pretty much universal in patent law. The trouble is that there are so many submissions that patent registrars are just that: people who register. They don't check whether the submission meets the requirements or not, leaving that to any future lawsuit. Of course, defendants in a suit will point to the fact that the patent was awarded several years ago with no objections from anyone else...
hardpenguin Jun 2, 2021
I only got my first Steam Controller this year (only 6 years after the initial release, yay!) and I agree, it is a real shame they do not make them anymore. It is a wonderful device.
Mohandevir Jun 2, 2021
Had I known it would be that easy, I would have filed for a pattent on that same thing, back in 2006, when the Wii came out... That's the first thing I tought about when I witnessed the gyroscope enabled racing games with the wii remote... Tought of a controller with back paddles for shifting gears... Damn! I'm under by $4M, now, I guess...

Last edited by Mohandevir on 2 June 2021 at 5:23 pm UTC
So... My Steam controller is going to become a collector's item
Furyspark Jun 2, 2021
Quoting: tonyrhDo you paladins really think Valve owns no patents?

Nobody here (afaik) is paladining for Valve. They're blackguarding against this horrid patent.

And I agree with them.
Purple Library Guy Jun 3, 2021
Quoting: GuestI read up on this some more, and it seems there were some patents that became invalidated, but not this one. Valve (or at least the project leader) was aware of it late in the development cycle, pretty much when the controller was customer ready, and "were too invested" (didn't want refresh the design that late in the game) and basically thought they could just talk their way out of any problems.

So I'll reiterate what I said the last time: the patent is stupid in my opinion, but Valve deserve to be slapped for knowingly, willfully, ignoring it. It's not up Valve to decide the validity of the patent.
They probably would have lost a lot more than 4 mil going back to the drawing board at that point. So, well, cost of doing business I guess. I'd probably have decided the same. Unless for some bizarre reason I respected patent law enough to want to not violate it on principle . . . but that's a nope.
slaapliedje Jun 3, 2021
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Quoting: Furyspark
Quoting: tonyrhDo you paladins really think Valve owns no patents?

Nobody here (afaik) is paladining for Valve. They're blackguarding against this horrid patent.

And I agree with them.
For the most part, if you are a company and DON'T patent things, you'll basically come up against someone who DID and the worse part is, a patent doesn't even require a working prototype. You can basically just show a schematic of how it would/should work. Pay the patent fees, and you're good. Then you just wait until some big company tries to do something similar, and sue. Cool, easy 4 million dollars.

So at this stage because of how broken it is (not requiring a working prototype, fee based, etc) then a company would simply be incompetent if it didn't file for patents for everything it possibly could.

The crap thing is, that means your inventor that comes up with a brilliant plan in their garage is more likely to get screwed out of it and still live the rest of their lives poor while their invention is sold to millions. This is because most of the time they'll try to take it to some company, and the company is likely to just say 'we'll that's neat, but we're not interested in it at this time.' Then maybe a year or 5 later will release something based on that idea.

And since there is a non-insignificant cost associated with filing a patent, getting one without corporate backing or financial risk (as you could apply and still be denied), it really does screw out the 'little guy'.
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