What just happened? A jury has unanimously found willful infringement on Valve’s part regarding the use of “rear-side control surfaces” (or back paddles) on its Steam Controller and ordered the company to pay $4 million in damages to Corsair-owned Ironburg Inventions and SCUF.
Ironburg Inventions and SCUF, the Corsair-owned maker of high-end performance controllers and holders of an “extensive patent portfolio,” had warned Valve in 2014 regarding its Steam Controller design, accusing it of copying the paddle/trigger mechanism located on the gadget’s backside.
A lawsuit followed a year later when Valve officially released the Steam Controller in 2015, ignoring these warnings and going on to produce 1.6 million units before discontinuing the hardware in 2019. In an announcement this week, Corsair revealed the verdict going in its favor, with Valve ordered by the US District Court in Washington to pay $4 million in damages after the jury unanimously found it guilty of willful infringement.
Microsoft licensed SCUF’s patents for the Xbox Elite controller that came with interchangeable paddles on the rear
SCUF’s lawyers likened the scenario to David and Goliath, accusing Valve of abusing its dominance and proceeding with the controller design despite knowing the risk. “Valve did know that its conduct involved an unreasonable risk of infringement, but it simply proceeded to infringe anyway — the classic David and Goliath story: Goliath does what Goliath wants to do,” noted SCUF lawyer Rober Becker. Valve’s lawyer, meanwhile, argued that the Steam Controller’s design didn’t fit the outlines of the patent, claiming that the plaintiff wanted a decision based on an altered reality.
A $4 million fine is chump change for a behemoth like Valve, though it’ll probably want to avoid such legal setbacks in the future as it continues to work on a potential successor of the Steam Controller.