Must be annoying to be sued over something you don’t even sell anymore.
Valve discontinued sales of its Steam Controller back in 2019 due, presumably, to lack of interest. I never bought one, and neither did anyone I know, so that would track. However, despite the device no longer being on the market, it seems to have proven itself a thorn in Valve’s collective side one last time today when its existence cost the company a few million bananas.
Last week, Valve was hit with a lawsuit from Ironburg Inventions, a gaming hardware manufacturer acting on behalf of their subsidiary SCUF Gaming. According to Ironburg’s lawsuit, the Steam Controller was an infringement of existing hardware patents held by them. To be more specific, the violation was in the controller’s rear triggers, designed to be operated with a user’s middle fingers. Apparently, this idea was copyrighted back in 2011 by Simon Burgess and Duncan Ironmonger, and while it was present on Xbox controllers created by Microsoft, Microsoft had purchased a sub-licensing agreement that made that okay. Valve had no such permission from Ironburg, which means the sale of the Steam Controller is considered copyright infringement.
— Polygon (@Polygon) February 3, 2021
The case was taken to court, where the jury unanimously voted in favor of Ironburg. As a result of this loss, Valve will be required to pay damages to the tune of $4 million. This is actually an improvement over the $11 million Ironburg was originally asking for, though since the jury ruled that Valve’s violation was “willful,” the Judge that presided over the case could decide to crank up the damages later.
So I guess if Valve made any tangible profits from the sales of Steam Controllers, well, they just lost them all. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the gaming industry from decades of observation, it’s that you never play fast and loose with copyright, or stuff like this happens.