Well, I don’t think anybody expected to wake up to this. BT, a holding company that owns a British multinational telecommunications company, is actually suing Valve — of all companies — for infringing on its patents. Yes, patents. As in, plural.
The lawsuit has been filed against Valve in Delaware and specifically states that Valve is infringing on four of BT’s patents – Gittins, Newton, Buckly, and Beddus (which were named after their respective inventors). BT’s demands are that Valve pay for damages and to redesign Steam.
If you want to know the nitty gritty, this document provides detailed outlines for what each patent protects, though it’s arguably debatable as to whether or not BT have a leg to stand on. For example, their patent for Gittins:
“…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 demand.
“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.”
What this basically means is that any system that pulls in content from different providers is technically stepping on the Gittins Patent. But, doesn’t that sound like the kind of system other companies use too?
In fact, BT has apparently also sued YouTube and Twitch in the past for the same exact thing. Plus, a quick Google search suggests BT is quite trigger happy when it comes to suing. Type ‘BT sues’ into Google and the first results include ‘BT sues NHS,’ ‘BT sues Google,’ ‘BT sues Apple’ and even ‘BT sues Scottish Government.’
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how this lawsuit plays out. Until then, there’s currently no word on how Valve plans to respond.