British Telecom sues Valve over Steam patent infringement allegations

British Telecommunications, better known these days as BT, has filed a lawsuit against Valve that alleges its Steam service infringes on four separate patents that it currently holds. BT claims that it first reached out to Valve about the matter in October 2015, but failed to receive any kind of response; subsequent attempts to establish a dialog went similarly ignored, and so now it's time to unleash the lawyers. 

The suit, available in full here, alleges that the core Steam platform infringes on its Gittins Patent, which “relates generally to providing users with content that originates from multiple subscriptions services and delivering it through a single portal where a customer may access content for which it has access rights.” Steam infringes upon that patent, the suit says, because it “locally stores third-party content, such as videogames, and, through the Steam platform, makes them accessible to users who have access rights, precisely as claimed [in the patent].” 

BT also claims that Steam Chat infringes on the Newton Patent, Steam Messaging infringes on its Beddus Patent, and Steam Broadcasting infringes on its Buckley Patent. Specific examples of infringing behavior are provided: Steam performs all of the nine steps in claim 21 of the Gittins Patent, for instance, while Steam Broadcasting walks all over claim 18 of the Buckley Patent. 

It's not really relevant to the legal action, but BT also seems a little irritated by Valve's ongoing refusal to acknowledge its claims, or even its mere existence. “Despite BT's written notice to Valve spelling out Valve's infringement of the Gittins patent, Valve has not stopped its infringement. Rather, Valve continues to make, use, and offer Valve’s Steam distribution platform in a manner which infringes the Gittins patent,” it says. “Valve has known of the Gittins patent, known that Valve’s Steam infringes the Gittins Patent, failed to even respond to any of BT’s correspondence, and still continues to offer its Steam platform in an infringing manner in disregard of BT’s patent rights."

BT is seeking a judgment against Valve holding it liable for the infringement of the patents, as well as damages “no less than a reasonable royalty, together with pre-judgment and post-judgment interest,” to be tripled because the infringement was “willful and deliberate,” and all legal costs involved in the matter. I've reached out to Valve for comment and will update if and when I receive a reply.

Thanks, ESPN.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.