BT – yes, that BT – is suing Valve for patent infringement. More specifically, BT believes that Steam infringes on four of its patents. It wants Valve to both pay damages and redesign Steam in a way that stops it from stepping on BT's toes.
The suit has been filed against Valve in Delaware and states that Valve infringe on the Gittins, Newton, Buckly, and Beddus patents (all of which are named after their principle inventors).
The document gives an outline of what each patent protects and it looks like BT may have a point (that said, what is being patented is very general stuff). For instance, the Gittins patent...
...relates generally to providing users with content that originates from multiple subscription services and delivering it through a single portal where a customer may access content for which it has access rights. The user requests content directly from the portal instead of requesting content separately from each of the subscription services. The portal can obtain the items from the remote sources or, alternatively, from readily-accessible storage associated with the portal where the items were previously stored so that they are available on
"As described in detail below, Valve’s Steam infringes the Gittins Patent as construed by this Court. Valve’s Steam locally stores third-party content, such as video games, and, through the Steam platform, makes them accessible to users who have access rights, precisely as claimed."
So, any system that pulls in content from different providers, giving users a one-stop shop for multiple services steps on the the Gittins patent.
The Newton patent is also very general. According to BT's suit it...
"...relates generally to a method for delivering structured messages comprised of information and data parts to an intended audience in a reliable and predictable manner. Messages are stored as files at a server for retrieval by the intended clients. Each client transmits requests for messages to the server at automatic and periodic intervals. As described in detail below, Valve’s Steam Chat infringes the Newton Patent.
"Valve’s Steam Chat delivers messages to users comprised of information and data parts. The messages are stored as files at a Valve server for retrieval by the intended uses. The Valve software client transmits requests for messages to the Valve server at automatic and periodic intervals, which are subsequently displayed at user terminals."
The Beddus patent is a little more complicated but, still, seems unfairly catch-all:
The Beddus Patent relates generally to a communications system in which a user is provided with different communication mechanisms and each mechanism is associated with a call control protocol. The user’s status is monitored, and when the user is determined to be logged out of the system, persistent communication mechanisms are available and at least one non-persistent communication mechanism is unavailable.
As described in detail below, Valve’s Steam Messaging infringes the Beddus Patent. Valve operates a communications network to support Valve Steam Messaging where users are provided with different communications mechanisms (e.g., text chat and VoIP calls), and each mechanism is associated with a call control protocol. A user’s status is monitored, and when the user is determined to be logged out of the system, text chat (here, a persistent communication mechanism) is available and VoIP calls are disabled.
And, finally, the Buckley patent:
The Buckley Patent generally relates to a multi-user display system and method for controlling a communal display that includes at least two independent workstations and an interface server for connection to a data network.
As described in detail below, Valve’s Steam Broadcasting infringes the Buckley Patent. Steam Broadcasting controls a communal display that allows a game player to share a streaming video of their game play with one or more second users. Steam Broadcasting also uses an interface server that manages the users and their requests.
Presumably BT has also sued Twitch and YouTube for this, too.
I'm being flippant, but if Valve is infringing on BT's patent, of course it should sue. Otherwise there is no use in a patent system. And, if multiple companies are infringing on the patent then that doesn't make it any less illegal. Plus, if you read through the 38-page court document, BT's lawyers go into much greater detail of how Valve infringes on each of the four patents.
It will be fascinating to see how this all plays out.