BT appears to be suing online PC video game and digital distribution giant Valve Corporation because its popular STEAM platform is alleged to “incorporate technologies invented by BT” (e.g. cloud features like Valve’s Steam Library, Steam Chat, Steam Messaging and Steam Broadcasting).
The UK operator claims in its official complaint via the Delaware District Court (USA), which was submitted at the end of July 2016, that Valve has infringed upon four of its key patents and that BT has tried and failed “on multiple occasions” to contact Valve about its related services or systems.
“Valve has derived and will continue to derive substantial value from these products and services which incorporate the patented technologies. Nonetheless, Valve has failed to respond to BT’s correspondence, at all, and chosen instead to continue to infringe the Patents-in-Suit wilfully and wantonly,” claims BT.
The Four USA Patents
US6578079 – Communications node for providing network based information service
US6334142 – Method for automatic and periodic requests for messages to an e-mail server from the client
US6694375 – Communications network and method having accessible directory of user profile data
US7167142 – Multi-user display system
The claims seem surprisingly broad (in a few cases it almost appears as if they’re trying to claim patent infringement over some fairly common software processes) and indeed BT could perhaps arguably have made similar challenges against other big online content and digital distribution giants, such as YouTube (Google).
On the other hand BT’s document does go into quite a bit of detail and if Valve are truly infringing then they’ll have to compensate BT or reach a new licensing agreement. At least the courts should finally attract a response from Valve, which so far has chosen not to respond.
BT’s Court Filing Statement
On October 8, 2015, the chief counsel for Intellectual Property Rights of BT (“BT’s IPR Counsel”) sent a letter to Valve’s General Counsel, identifying the Patents-In-Suit and providing clear notice that Valve infringed them. The October 8, 2015 letter provided a summary of each Patent-In-Suit and enclosed claim charts explaining Valve’s infringement of a representative claim, in detail, on an element-by-element basis.
Neither Valve’s General Counsel, nor anyone else at Valve, responded to BT’s October 8, 2015 letter. On December 21, 2015, BT’s IPR counsel sent a follow-up letter to Valve’s General Counsel reminding Valve that BT had not received any response from Valve and inviting a response. Once again, neither Valve’s General Counsel nor anyone else at Valve responded to BT.
On April 11, 2016, BT’s IPR counsel sent yet another letter to Valve’s General Counsel indicating that it had been almost seven months since Valve had been placed on notice of infringement without a response. BT noted that its efforts to initiate a dialogue with Valve regarding Valve’s ongoing infringement had gone un-acknowledged and un-answered. BT advised Valve that if Valve did not respond, BT would have the right to pursue damages against Valve for Valve’s willful infringement of BT’s patents.
Yet again, neither Valve’s General Counsel nor anyone else at Valve responded to BT’s letter.
At this point it’s worth remembering that BT once (2012) also bizarrely tried to claim a patent over Hyperlinks, although as a company they’ve also faced plenty of patent challenges themselves from the likes of ASSIA (e.g. Dynamic Spectrum Management) and Google (e.g. Internet-phone systems and control of server data) among others.
Being a big telecoms business, especially one that has shaped so much of how modern communications networks work, means a lot of fighting to protect your corner. Never the less related cases, especially ones that cover such a wide remit, do have a tendency to drag on and so we might not see the outcome of this for awhile.