Judge denies Valve's request for a new trial following Steam Controller lawsuit loss

(Image credit: Valve)

In February, Valve was ordered to pay $4 million to SCUF Gaming parent Ironburg Inventions for violating the company's patents with the Steam Controller. The case centered around back paddles on the controller: Ironburg's lawyers contended that Valve had been warned about the infringement after it revealed a prototype of the controller in 2014 but proceeded to develop and release it anyway, while Valve claimed that the buttons were different from those in the patents held by Ironburg and that there was no infringement at all.

Following the verdict, Valve filed a motion requesting either a judgment as a matter of law—essentially, that the judge set aside the verdict and issue a new ruling—or a new trial, because the jury's findings and damage awards "were unsupported by the evidence." In a ruling issued earlier this week (available in full via The Esports Observer), however, the judge disagreed, saying that sufficient evidence was presented, and was in fact quite simple and straightforward.

"In his opening statement, counsel for [Valve] told the jury that 'this is about as straightforward a patent case as you could ever hope to get because every decision that you will have to make in this trial you can make with just two pieces of evidence'," the ruling says. "[Valve's] lawyer asked the jury to 'focus on those two pieces of essential evidence,' which would 'be at the heart of this entire trial,' and he indicated that, if the jury did so and based its decision 'on reality,' it would have no trouble making the right decision at the end of this case."

"The Court agrees that this case is straightforward and can be decided on the ’525 Patent and the accused device. The jury appears to have done exactly that, but defendant does not like the result the jury reached. Defendant’s dissatisfaction does not constitute grounds for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial."

The one upside for Valve is that the judge also declined Ironburg's request for enhanced damages, which could have seen the amount of the award tripled. The ruling states that the infringement is of the "garden variety" type, rather than something more egregious such as "piracy" of an invention, and so no form of punitive damages is warranted.

It's possible that Valve could appeal the matter further, but Darius Gambino, an intellectual property attorney at law firm Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP, told The Esports Observer that it might opt to take the ruling against enhanced damages as a win and move on with its life, especially since the Steam Controller was discontinued in 2019. "Valve may just pay the $4 million and be done with it since it’s not an ongoing product that they’re continuing to generate sales from," Gambino said.

I've reached out to Valve for comment on the ruling and will update if I receive a reply.

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.