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Valve losses Steam controller patent lawsuit.

Summary

Valve has lost a patent dispute over "additional controls on the back of a pad to be operated by the user’s middle fingers"

 

Quotes

Quote

Valve has lost the first ever patent jury trial to be conducted remotely. The trial... began in late January. Ironburg alleged that... Valve was warned in 2014 that a prototype of the Steam Controller shown at... CES... featured the same rear-side controls it had recently patented. The patent, for additional controls on the back of a pad to be operated by the user’s middle fingers, would later be licensed by Microsoft for use in its Xbox Elite controllers. Despite the warning, Valve went on to launch its controller and reportedly sold 1.6 million units before the product was discontinued. “Valve did know that its conduct involved an unreasonable risk of infringement, but it simply proceeded to infringe anyway” Ironburg’s lawyer, had argued. Valve claimed there was no infringement, but the jury found otherwise and Ironburg was awarded $4 million in damages. While the award is on the low end of the damages range sought by Ironburg, the possibility of enhancements remains as jurors decided that Valve had willfully infringed the patent.

 

My thoughts

Big oof for Valvo there. In my opinion it seems like such an obvious thing to create, just extra button controllers, but of course, even the simplest of changes and additions can be copyrighted and protected here and Ironburg was fully within their right. I'm sure discovery will have brought to light any willfulness infringement if any existed.

 

Sources

Polygon
Rock Paper Shotgun

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I operate the triggers on my PS4 and PS5 controllers with my middle fingers...so yeah Valve was basing their case on shaky ground.

Edit: I probably misunderstood what was going on. The patent shouldn't even exist.

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There has to come a point where patents like this are outright banned (similar with software patents...like how "Page Up" scrolling a full page length is patented).

 

For those that are curious, the patent is as follows

https://patents.google.com/patent/US8641525B2/en

At what point should patents be granted for design choices to solve a function.  (e.g. A cup should be be patented as a device to hold water).  It's ridiculous that a patent can exist for effectively trying to create a way to have a third trigger stick.

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2 hours ago, Orangeator said:

Wow, that is super lame of Microsoft to even patent such an "invention"... 

According to the quote, Ironburg (whoever they are) enforced and presumably hold the patent. Microsoft are a licensee of the patent, which I guess is what Ironburg wanted Valve to be.

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If you think this patent is dumb.

 

Remember that rounded corners and "slide to unlock" are patented as well

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9 hours ago, Orangeator said:

Wow, that is super lame of Microsoft to even patent such an "invention"... 

one of the MS founders (not BG) is notorious for patent trolling.

 

So this is why the controller was DC. I could never get mine working in rocket league anyway.

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12 hours ago, rcmaehl said:

My thoughts

Big oof for Valvo there. In my opinion it seems like such an obvious thing to create, just extra button controllers, but of course, even the simplest of changes and additions can be copyrighted and protected here and Ironburg was fully within their right. I'm sure discovery will have brought to light any willfulness infringement if any existed.

 

 

Most patents involving controllers are not novel or unique. Dang near everything in use today, Nintendo originally created. The + shaped D pad being the oldest one. Sony's contribution was basically adding two analog controls and two haptic feedback motors to what was otherwise a SNES pad (and the Playstation prototype that was originally the SNES CDROM, literately used a SNES pad.)

 

Beyond that, nothing really novel has been added. Twin shoulder buttons? Sony. Analog shoulder buttons? Nintendo. Both companies were sued by patent trolls for such things, and why the PS3 launch controllers had no haptic feedback, and why Nintendo hasn't put analog shoulder buttons in their controllers since (does the Switch have them?)

 

Anyway if you ask the question of why doesn't (company) put (thing) on their controller the answer is likely "idiot patents", basically "we were going to, but some idiot forgot to patent it before the trolls did."

 

It's another example of obvious things being patented and just didn't exist prior, not due to IP issues, but due to things like power or data bus concerns. Like you can't add analog controls to a SNES pad because the SNES pad bus doesn't provide enough power for it, it doesn't really have enough power for 4-controllers. The N64 and GameCube wired controllers have powered serial buses to drive their haptic features.

 

Like not even the "touch pad" stuff seen on the PS controllers I'd even consider novel because USB touch pads have been a thing since the late-90's, and capacitive touch pads have been a thing since 2008. 

 

Microphone and Headphones/speakers in the controller? Gamecube and DS already did it, before the Xbox controllers did. IMO, It's very likely that Microsoft licensed all the controller patents from Nintendo that applied. 

 

At any rate, Valve, and Google (Stadia)... have kinda botched their controllers. The Valve controller seems like they took the Xbox 360 controller and swapped the positions of the buttons/left-analog controller with two touch-pad like surfaces representing the D pad and right-analog.  The Stadia controller is basically the Playstation 3 controller with the Xbox 360 button labels.

 

The IMO, "correct" controller layout was always the SNES-like (eg playstation) pad, with 4-6 buttons on the front that are reached by the right thumb, and a right-analog, and likewise a D-pad and left-analog on the left, with the analog controllers in line with each other. The Xbox 360/GC layout favors FPS and not 2D games (analog controls are hell on 2D games that need precision left/right movement, eg tetris/dr.mario) with the strange-shaped + d-pad. The PS layout favors JRPG's and platformers.

 

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11 hours ago, WereCat said:

Patents like this shouldn't exist in the first place. 

Not just these, but most patents shouldn't exist.

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44 minutes ago, WereCatf said:

Not just these, but most patents shouldn't exist.

100% agreement. Without patents, we would be living in the future and all out climate problems would have been solved by now.

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43 minutes ago, WereCatf said:

Not just these, but most patents shouldn't exist.

The problem is companies (and other holders) game the system as it exists. If they patented really new and unique stuff, is it unreasonable for them to not want others to easily copy it? So patents are a game in writing it in as broad a way as possible so you capture as much potential coverage as possible, but not so general it gets thrown out. Write it too tightly, someone can change something to get around it. As you can imagine, this is highly dependant on interpretation and if you disagree, you'll likely have a long and expensive legal process to go through.

 

I don't know the history of how patents came to exist, but the language they use makes no sense and I'm saying that having contributed (and thus named) on a patent in previous employment. All I can remember as part of the process were the endless meetings with legal to make sure what was in the patent was what the "invention" was, and the language was always a wall.

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1 hour ago, porina said:

The problem is companies (and other holders) game the system as it exists. If they patented really new and unique stuff, is it unreasonable for them to not want others to easily copy it? So patents are a game in writing it in as broad a way as possible so you capture as much potential coverage as possible, but not so general it gets thrown out. Write it too tightly, someone can change something to get around it. As you can imagine, this is highly dependant on interpretation and if you disagree, you'll likely have a long and expensive legal process to go through.

 

I don't know the history of how patents came to exist, but the language they use makes no sense and I'm saying that having contributed (and thus named) on a patent in previous employment. All I can remember as part of the process were the endless meetings with legal to make sure what was in the patent was what the "invention" was, and the language was always a wall.

In the USA, the Constitution allows Congress to pass Laws supporting Patents for Limited Times  to encourage Inventors.

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41 minutes ago, whm1974 said:

In the USA, the Constitution allows Congress to pass Laws supporting Patents for Limited Times  to encourage Inventors.

If that was in reference to my question on the history of patents itself, it was more in general and not country specific. The concept of patents have existed far longer than the USA has. In the modern world, English language patents (not limited to USA) are written in a particular way, and it was more specifically that which I was wondering how it came about.

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I would perhaps add “shouldn’t exist any more”. Back when Disney forced patent extension in an epically expensive multi year federal thing involving massive lobbying in order to protect its going-out-of-copywrite stuff the did a major disservice to the world.  People knew what would happen at the time but were unable to stop it.  

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Losing over a controller like that... also being able to patent something like that is just rather lame. Really as we know the whole patent system is nonsense.

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11 minutes ago, Doobeedoo said:

Losing over a controller like that... also being able to patent something like that is just rather lame. Really as we know the whole patent system is nonsense.

It’s not nonsense. The patent system remains the primary driver of invention.  It is broken though. As far as I can tell, It was broken by making patents last too long, and some other knock-on abuses like the way patents are filed today by large companies.  It was done by Disney during iirc the Carter administration.  Patents were great for 400 years before that.  The issue with open source is it has its own economic drivers involving fame and hireability.  It can produce incredibly effective systems but it doesn’t always.  More did than does lately it seems.  It’s the older open source stuff that is the most useful it seems.  I don’t know if the world can survive without patents or not.  They are diseased though.

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26 minutes ago, Bombastinator said:

It’s not nonsense. The patent system remains the primary driver of invention.  It is broken though. As far as I can tell, It was broken by making patents last too long, and some other knock-on abuses like the way patents are filed today by large companies.  It was done by Disney during iirc the Carter administration.  Patents were great for 400 years before that.  The issue with open source is it has its own economic drivers involving fame and hireability.  It can produce incredibly effective systems but it doesn’t always.  More did than does lately it seems.  It’s the older open source stuff that is the most useful it seems.  I don’t know if the world can survive without patents or not.  They are diseased though.

Yeah urm it sure is broken, world would be fine without them I'm sure. For sure sure they are, diseased.

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We're not going to see the end of patents anytime soon, but they're definitely stupid. In an ideal world, patents for anything that isn't created as a physical object should expire more quickly than patents for actual products, and the actual products should show the patent in use and not deviate from it or else the patent should be invalidated. Patents should not be able to be sold, either. The moment a company no longer exists, the patents should go up in flames and the products should become public property.

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33 minutes ago, Bombastinator said:

  I don’t know if the world can survive without patents or not.  They are diseased though.

Actually the Modern World can exist w/o Patents.

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7 minutes ago, Syrsly said:

We're not going to see the end of patents anytime soon, but they're definitely stupid. In an ideal world, patents for anything that isn't created as a physical object should expire more quickly than patents for actual products, and the actual products should show the patent in use and not deviate from it or else the patent should be invalidated. Patents should not be able to be sold, either. The moment a company no longer exists, the patents should go up in flames and the products should become public property.

Well I do think that Patent Trolling should be highly illegal and Companies engaged in should be put out of business and result in Prison for those involved.

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1 hour ago, porina said:

If that was in reference to my question on the history of patents itself, it was more in general and not country specific. The concept of patents have existed far longer than the USA has. In the modern world, English language patents (not limited to USA) are written in a particular way, and it was more specifically that which I was wondering how it came about.

At first Patents granted by the King to grant Monopolies  to their "Friends" as a Award. And yes it was widely abuse.

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