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Valve Loses $4 Million Lawsuit to Corsair Over Steam Controller

Steam Controller
(Image credit: Valve)

Valve's Steam Controller landed way back in 2013, but it was never a great success. Years later, Valve killed it off and sold old inventory for just $5 apiece, but it seems a failed product isn't the only pain Valve is suffering over it. In a court case held in the District Court for the Western District of Washington, the jury voted in favor of Corsair, ordering Valve to pay $4 million in damages over the Steam Controller. 

Long story short, in designing and producing the Steam Controller, Valve knowingly infringed on patents that were the property of Ironburg Inventions, a sub-firm of SCUF. Ironburg Inventions warned Valve about this in 2014, but Valve continued to sell the Steam controller, a total of 1.6-million units, before hitting the kill switch.

Corsair acquired SCUF in 2019 and picked up the fight. The culprit: the rear-facing side controls. Valve could have avoided all this by licensing the technology from SCUF, just like Microsoft has for select Xbox controllers, including the Xbox Elite controller.

Corsair posted the following statement:

Corsair Gaming, a leading global provider and innovator of high-performance gear for gamers and content creators and its subsidiaries Scuf Gaming and Ironburg Inventions Ltd., announce that on February 1, 2021 in the patent infringement case, Ironburg Inventions Ltd. v. Valve Corp, US District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle the jury unanimously found that Valve Corp infringed Ironburg’s 8,641,525 controller patent and awarded Ironburg over $4 million. In addition, the jury unanimously found willful infringement by Valve Corp. The jury verdict of willful infringement is the first step to a potential award of enhanced damages up to the statutory limit of treble damages.

This fine comes in just weeks after Valve, and a select handful of other publishers, were also fined €7.8-million ($9.4 million USD) by the European Commission for geo-blocking game activations. 

Niels Broekhuijsen
Niels Broekhuijsen is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware news on all components and peripherals.
  • pocketdrummer
    For a brief moment I got excited that they were going to bring it back. This is probably the final nail in the coffin for that, though.
    Reply
  • d0x360
    That's nothing for valve... seriously that's like a fine for your average middle class person of $20.

    Although it's a stupid reason to pay out considering how horrible that controller is..yes I own one. Wish I got it for $5 lol.

    I wonder how much the license would have cost for 1.5 million units? Tom's... Any chance we could get some investigation into this beyond reposting a press release?
    Reply
  • TwoSpoons100
    "Rear facing side controls". The bar for getting a patent is way too low.
    Reply
  • OriginFree
    I'm not 100% sure but I vaguely remember Microsoft paying $6 mill or so for their patent.

    Given the number of controllers MS sells vs 1st Gen Valve product, they probably could have gotten it for a fraction of the $6 mill. Who knows maybe even a per unit cost until Valve knew it was something they were going to keep making and then go with a flat license like MS.

    Spend $4 million to save under $1 million (Speculation of cost on my part) on a product that you basically ended up scrapping. Make those shareholders happy boys.
    Reply
  • smallquadruped
    I don't remember a controller from Corsair or this Ironburg company, are they resorting to patent trolling? Nobody can put buttons on the back? That explains why rear buttons are so rare and expensive, I wish every controller had them.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    $4 million is pocket change for Valve, a company worth billions. And if you consider that they apparently sold around 1.6 million Steam controllers, that only amounts to about $2.50 per controller, probably not too much more than they might have paid for licensing to begin with.

    smallquadruped said:
    I don't remember a controller from Corsair or this Ironburg company, are they resorting to patent trolling? Nobody can put buttons on the back? That explains why rear buttons are so rare and expensive, I wish every controller had them.
    SCUF has been around for a while, and makes expensive customized console controllers with paddles on the back that duplicate functionality of certain front-facing buttons to make them easier to reach for competitive console gaming. Apparently corsair bought the company a little over a year ago, likely for the sole purpose of cashing in on their patents.

    I would absolutely consider it patent trolling, seeing as this court case didn't happen until after Corsair bought the company, and after the controller had been discontinued. Actually, corsair's acquisition of SCUF happened within weeks of the Steam controller being discontinued, so it wouldn't surprise me if the pending lawsuit was a primary contributing factor to Valve killing off the Steam controller and clearing out the remaining inventory for next to nothing.

    The buttons built into the grips of the Steam controller don't really bear that much resemblance to the paddles on a scuff controller either. It seems rather shifty patenting the existence of any buttons on the reverse side of a controller, especially seeing as the N64 controller had a button on its underside well before SCUF existed.
    Reply
  • jakjawagon
    Valve, and a select handful of other publishers, were also fined €7.8-million ($9.4 million USD) by the European Commission for geo-blocking game activations.

    That's a much more interesting story, why no post about that?
    Reply