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Valve fined $4M in Steam Controller patent infringement lawsuit

The jury voted unanimously against Valve

Steam Controller Photo: Valve
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

A jury, meeting over Zoom, has voted unanimously against Valve during a trial over a Steam Controller patent infringement case, awarding $4 million in damages to Ironburg Inventions and SCUF. The original complaint was filed in 2015 in a Washington court.

SCUF and Ironburg Inventions, subsidiaries of computer company Corsair, are known for its custom, “high-performance” video game controllers — specializing in both accessories and customized gear. SCUF holds 105 patents for its designs, according to its website, many of which relate to its special trigger mechanisms. The “rear-side control surfaces,” as explained in the case’s opening arguments in late January, were the subject of this particular case. Basically, SCUF said Valve had copied its back paddles — the ones on the controller body.

It was a similar technology that SCUF licensed to Microsoft in 2015 for use on its Xbox Elite controller. The company also partnered with Sony in 2018 on a PlayStation 4 controller that included four back paddles and its signature trigger extenders.

SCUF’s lawyers alleged that Valve willfully disregarded the patents and SCUF’s warnings, and continued forward with its infringing Steam Controller.

“Valve did know that its conduct involved an unreasonable risk of infringement, but it simply proceeded to infringe anyway,” SCUF lawyer Robert Becker said during the trial, as reported by Law360. “The classic David and Goliath story — Goliath does what Goliath wants to do.”

On Tuesday, SCUF-owner Corsair announced that it had won its lawsuit against Valve after years in the court system. The jury voted unanimously on all claims, including that the infringement was “willful,” meaning Corsair may be owed more than the original fine, which is over $4 million.

Valve’s Steam Controller has been discontinued for a while — and officially sold out in 2019 after a deal that offered the controller for $5.

Last week, Valve was hit with a potential class action lawsuit alleging the company has been violating antitrust rules. Five defendants filed the complaint over a “Most Favored Nations” clause in its contracts with game developers. This prevents game developers from selling their games on other platforms for lower prices than on Steam, according to the complaint. This is on top of a combined €7.8 million fine issued to Valve and five game publishers by the European Commission, after the commission found the companies broke antitrust rules regarding “geo-blocking.”

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