BT Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Valve

British Telecommunications (BT) have filed a lawsuit against Valve claiming patent infringement. The action was brought “based on Valve’s continued willful infringement” of four patents (I’ll go into what they are in a moment) and was filed in Delaware on 28 July.

[Edit: I was wondering “Why Delaware?” and reader, @Bear_Theory, linked me to this PricewaterhouseCoopers study pointing to page 15 which has Delaware as one of the favourable venues for patent holders to file suit because there’s a decent combination of a shorter time-to-trial and higher success rate for patent holders. It’s not the only district where that’s the case (the study also highlights Virginia Eastern, Texas Eastern, Wisconsin Western and Florida Middle as filling out the rest of the top five) but it would make it one of the more attractive options when filing. I’m going to take out the earlier paragraph because it only confuses matters and adds irrelevant info BUT I’ll leave this link to Delaware’s government website where they talk about “myths” regarding corporations and Delaware because it was also entertaining in its own right.]

Anyway, let’s take a look at the filing. It specifically mentions that Valve “offers a broad range of products and services which incorporate technologies invented by BT. These include, inter alia, Valve’s Steam Library, Valve’s Steam Chat, Valve’s Steam Messaging, and Valve’s Steam Broadcasting.” It states that BT has notified Valve of the alleged infringement on multiple occasions and has requested discussions to address the issue, giving a licensing arrangement as one possible option.

The filing continues “Valve has failed to respond to BT’s correspondence, at all, and chosen instead to continue to infringe the Patents-in-Suit willfully and wantonly.” Further correspondence from BT’s intellectual property rights counsel to Valve has, it says, been ignored.

“BT brings this action to recover the just compensation it is owed for Valve’s past infringement, and to prevent Valve from continuing to benefit from the patented inventions in the future without authorization or compensation to BT.”

The four patents mentioned in the suit are the Gittins Patent (US Patent No 6,578,079), the Newton Patent (US Patent No 6,334,142) the Beddus Patent (US Patent No 6,694,375) and the Buckley Patent (US Patent No 7,167,142).

Patents are ways of excluding others from making use of your invention without permission for a limited time after the patent is granted. These are US patents and are only effective in the US and its territories and possessions. The four listed above are utility patents which are granted to anyone who discovers “any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof”.

The Gittins Patent is about customers being provided with content originating from multiple subscription services through a single portal and being able to retrieve that which they have rights to access. There are more details in the filing and in the patent description itself but essentially this relates to Steam’s basic structure for customers.

The Newton Patent is included as BT says it pertains to Steam Chat and relates to a method for delivering messages 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.”

The Beddus Patent is to do with the provision of different communication mechanisms and associated call control protocols. With regard to Valve, the filing references the communication network on Steam where you can use text chat or VoIP calls, each of which are associated with call control protocols. Also of note here is that the system monitors the user’s status and changes to that status can determine which communication methods are available to them.

The Buckley Patent is the one which BT say relates to Steam Broadcasting. It “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 per the filing: “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.”

If you’re curious I suggest reading the filing because it goes through the step-by-step processes which constitute each patent and why they believe Valve’s various Steam set-ups infringe those patents. You’ll get more of a feeling for the specifics involved such as particular divisions of storage and so on. The Beddus Patent was the one where I needed to have a proper read through to see what was so specific. It’s also just interesting from a logistical point of view if you want to know how aspects of Valve’s Steam platform work.

BT are asking for a judgment holding Valve liable for the infringements, damages resulting from the infringement, a judgment determining the infringement to be deliberate and willful along with a trebling of the damages, BT’s legal fees and expenses and whatever else the court might care to offer.

I’ve sent Valve a request for an official response or comment so I’ll add one in if they respond. I’m also kind of considering trying to add “Smith Smith” – the example user they cite in the filings – as a friend.

From this site

119 Comments

  1. Zanchito says:

    Oh,software patents, the scourge of innovation and standarization. Being useless to consumers since the one click checkout patent.

    Can’t wait for our alien overlords to arrive and destroy this civilization.

    • ryanrybot says:

      They already have. Who do you think runs the patent offices?

    • rsf says:

      link to youtu.be

      This is a video by the creator of the flightsim X-Plane, about getting patent trolled by a shell company.

      He did his own investigation, visiting the state in question, physically visiting the offices of companies in question, digging into links between Judges and relative lawyers, tactics allegedly used to stop victims talking about being trolled so the problem remains unknown, and interviewed a professor and expert on Patents, as well as a Patent lawyer.

      • rsf says:

        RPS should interview him, I assume it will make an interesting article.

        • RadicalHorse says:

          I strongly disagree, what we really need is more articles about No Man’s Sky. /s

        • Premium User Badge

          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          At the very least he should be able to X-Plane the situation.

          • Premium User Badge

            cockpisspartridge says:

            Nice.

          • iRaphi says:

            I tip my imaginary hat to you, that must have been the first pun I have seen in ages that wasn’t cringe-worthy. [looks at Pip and Alice…]

    • Pliqu3011 says:

      I’ll post the obligatory Richard Stallman talk about software patents, “The Danger of Software Patents”
      link to youtube.com

      Recommended to anyone interested in the subject who hasn’t seen it yet.

  2. Hideous says:

    Ew. Software patents are the worst. Those patents are so generic, they should be suing every other online service out there.

    • Blackcompany says:

      I was just wondering whether they were also willing to sue literally every other digital distribution platform in existence.

      Seriously. Read some of the filing. They don’t even have patents on quantifiable, measurably significant tech. They were, for some embarrassingly stupid reason, seemingly allowed to patent the period a series of actions using digital communication tools.

      This is frankly absurd.

      • pack.wolf says:

        The thing that irritates me most about patents is that they can be enforced super-selectively. If trademarks have to be actively and vigorously defended so they don’t cease to exist, why not patents?
        Oh, it’s so trolls can patent obvious solutions to common problems and only go after the money once someone has built a successful business using comparable ideas.
        Actually, I think the thing that really bothers me most about software patents is that the owner of the patent doesn’t even have to ever have developed a working implementation, much less actively used or marketed it. It’s like saying, “oh I invented a round thing so carts can go around more easily”, then wait for Dunlop to after years of development of the actual materials and manufacturing processes make enough money of that “wheel” thing before suing them for infringement.

        • Stropp says:

          That would make it very difficult for small inventors to bring a case against large companies or wealthy individuals who attempt to steal their patented inventions. Which is really what the patent system was created for.

          Unfortunately the patent system has been subverted by lawyers and fat cats to include things that it was never meant to. Math and algorithms being one of those things.

          What’s needed is some kind of action to bring back the system to its original state.

          • Marr says:

            We need mechanisms that vary the application of patents and copyright so that they apply differently to giant publicly traded corporations, charitable non-profits, tiny startup businesses and children’s school projects. This one size fits nobody approach is a constant slow burn disaster.

    • Babymech says:

      Well, they’re not staying away from the big boys – the Gittins patent was previously asserted against Google, and led to Google’s first patent infringement lawsuit as a counter.

    • DragonDai says:

      If they win against Valve, they WILL sue everyone else.

  3. lorddon says:

    I hope valve fucking crushes them into obscurity in court, and every time they think about patent trolling another company their buttocks clench involuntarily.

    • ohminus says:

      Um, you do know that BT group makes about as much money in profit per year as the total equity of Valve?

      The chances of Valve “crushing them into obscurity” are about as big as you toppling Mount Everest by kicking it real hard. It’s rather a matter of “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for ye are crunchy and taste good with ketchup”

      It’s funny though that BT engages in such litigation, given that European laws on software patents are pretty restrictive.

      • Zorganist says:

        I imagine that’s the reason BT are filing the case in Delaware. And what’s the point in even having patents if you never try to sue a much smaller company for infringement?

        • ohminus says:

          It will be interesting to watch how this pans out. BT is large enough to have the legal staff to know whether they have a chance at winning this or not.

          To engage in some tinfoil hattery, I wonder if the patent lawsuit isn’t just a matter of softening Valve up for something larger… BT has started offering content a while ago…

        • Rizlar says:

          Do BT even operate in the US? The patents are clearly US-specific, do they even have a case if they aren’t actively using/seeking to use them?

          • mattevansc3 says:

            All you need is an office address and “staff”.

          • geerad says:

            Doesn’t matter if they operate in the US or not. Under US law, you are not required to even attempt to bring the invention to market. The invention is yours to do with what you will, even if it’s just sitting on it for two decades.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          They are probably hoping it lands in Judge Sue Robinson’s court who’s been openly critical of the Alice ruling and seems to actively look for reasons why software patents aren’t abstract.

          Based on her previous rulings this year and last there seems to be enough “specificity” in the BT patents for her to find reasons not to invalidate them. On the flipside Delaware has one of the highest invalidation rates post Alice ruling so if it doesn’t go to her court there’s a strong likliehood of Valve getting those patents struck off.

          Still I’m surprised they didn’t go to the East District court in Texas.

          • Captain Joyless says:

            Yeah, this was my thought as well. The paragraph about Delaware’s outsized role in corporate governance is quite far off-point.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Nauallis says:

    Oh look! A UK-based site writing about US-based news and US-based laws. On the internet! Sigh, feeding trolls.

    Thanks for the article, Pip. Miserable news. Getting pretty tired of all of the patent trolls. More tired of the fact that the American judicial system oftentimes is such a godawful mess that many companies would rather settle than get involved in litigation (and there’s not much eduction about the legal system included with public schooling, so it’s just mysterious/inscrutable to most folks).

    • Blackcompany says:

      As an American…I agree completely with this spot on assessment of both our judicial and education systems. This is a wholly accurate assessment of both.

    • Sleepy Will says:

      Call me batty, but isn’t news about British Telecom firmly in British news territory?

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        These are US patents and are only effective in the US and its territories and possessions.

        • Premium User Badge

          Nauallis says:

          From the article, since that didn’t format quite how I thought it would. Not trying to be a pedant, just answering your question.

        • Sleepy Will says:

          A British site, reporting on one of the largest British companies interacting with the gaming industry is definately not exclusively American news, it’s of interest to British people too, no matter who’s juristiction they are interacting with. Surely you don’t disagree with that?

          • Premium User Badge

            Nauallis says:

            By all means, news should be of interest to whomever wants to read it. Your point is exactly the point I was making, if in sarcastic abstraction.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            Regardless. It involves valve – a company of interest to game players from nearly every country in the world, including britain.

            I just feel like I’m missing something here.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            Let me be clear, you make quite a harsh criticism of RPS for reporting US news, only to claim that news should be of interest to whoever wants to read it. I don’t understand! It’s definately not US only news and you seem to disagree with yourself. Tell me, what am I missing?

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I’ll tell you what you’re missing. Yesterday, we were talking about UK consumer law, and he butted in telling us we were all wrong, US law doesn’t work like that. I pointed out that this was a British site, and he wouldn’t expect on an american site, every mention of the law to be defined as US law. It’s worth noting though that the opening post of that conversation did not only define that we were discussing UK law, but also linked specifically to the legislation. He was clearly so embarrased by his error, that he’s still nursing that wound 24 hours later.

    • bragonskeletons says:

      You’ll find BT is based in London sir.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      You don’t understand, knowing Pip this was all an excuse to include a picture of the Bob Hoskins advert. (That’s not a criticism, btw, I’d have done the same!)

      Us Brits love a bit of BT monopoly news, seriously they own most communication infrastructure laid in this land.

      • Premium User Badge

        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        I’m just amazed BT was able to keep his shirt on long enough to film a commercial.

    • MrUnimport says:

      I don’t think it’s evidence of a broken system if entities with disputes manage to settle their issues out of court.

      • TheMightyEthan says:

        It is and isn’t. Companies settling legitimate disagreements out of court is desirable. Rich entities being able to bully smaller entities into settling ridiculous claims because the smaller entity would be bankrupted by the litigation regardless of outcome is not desirable. I would say US patent law (and specifically software patent law) seems to be skewed too far toward the second, but that’s a judgment call.

      • Baines says:

        It is evidence of a broken system when companies choose to settle out of court because it is cheaper than attempting to defend yourself in court, and because it is far from guaranteed that you’ll win even when a patent should be struck.

        • P.Funk says:

          Feels like a litigiously legitimized shakedown.

          “That’s a nice digital distribution system you got there mate… would be a shame if… somethin’ were to ‘appen to it? Eh?”

        • mattevansc3 says:

          It’s also up to the judge to decide whether the defence get their fees paid for by the plaintiff if the defence wins. In courts like Delaware and East District Texas the chances of that happening are very slim.

          Defendants are three way losers in a patent case;
          If they win – It’s business as normal but they’ve incurred the costs of a trial.
          If they settle – The lose money to the plaintiff.
          If they lose – They either lose their business (have to stop using the patent), or licence the patents at the plaintiff’s rates and damages/back pay and the plaintiff’s court fees.

          As the defendant is really just managing their loses most successful patent trolls will settle for just above the costs involved in a defendant win so as to make it a more cost effective option.

  5. Xenotone says:

    I’m no farmer, but this sounds like a pile of horse shit.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      I’ve lived with horses since I was about six years old, and I can confirm.

      • Otterley says:

        I’m amazed you still get along with them. I’ve tried living with horses and quite honestly I’d never do it again. They keep forgetting to use the toilet properly, never do the shopping. The doorbell rings – they break most of the furniture. Definitely not worth the hassle. Though they did look majestic standing in the living room.

  6. Optimaximal says:

    Telecoms companies being granted absurdly broad patents that are used like a scattershot musket is not uncommon – given they’re US patents I wouldn’t be surprised if they are ones BT picked up in a fire sale from a defunct brand like Nortel.

    The companies are pushed into these actions by shareholders desiring a levy on random companies in other sectors, especially as BT and other telecoms companies are fighting a losing battle against the ongoing march of progress in their core markets.

  7. DuncUK says:

    The patent system is so absurdly broken. Patent offices are so bad at determining whether patents on software* are really for new and non-obvious inventions, that approval vs rejection appears to the outsider to be quite random.

    *yes, contrary to popular belief softwar patents are allowed even in the EU

    • ohminus says:

      “*yes, contrary to popular belief softwar patents are allowed even in the EU”

      Yes, software patents are allowed in the EU, but they are massively more restricted and mostly tied to actual technical implementation.

      • scaresnake says:

        Technical in this regard means here, that the software has to solve a real world, non-virtual, technical (like in machine) issue.
        This means, that in EU, a very specific algorithm for e.g. car ABS or ESC is patentable. But only for use in this very application, and
        Algorithm for technical issues that remain purely virtual, like a distribution platform for virtual games are not patentable in EU.
        And this is very much a good thing.

  8. Stevostin says:

    Myth: US government isn’t corrupt enough to never admit it actually hosts an off shore state.

    (also works with the City and UK BTW).

  9. Bishop149 says:

    I have had some experience of patent law albeit in an utterly different field (bioscience) and it sounds to me that those claims are SO broad and the patents themselves so old that any decent patent lawyer would get them thrown out in about 5 minutes.

    But then maybe such stupidity is allowed with software patents.

    • Underwhelmed says:

      Maybe, but getting through the mess to that magical five minutes is a long horrible process.

    • Czrly says:

      The expected utility of having vacuous patents thrown out is almost zero – you’re losing nothing if the patents are old and vague and don’t hold “bully” value for trolling small companies for settlements. (Trolling assumes that the case won’t get tried because, in court, the patents would be shredded.)

      The expected utility of winning the case is non-zero: winning would be unbelievably huge because BT could then proceed to sue literally everyone on the ‘web and the chance of winning might be slight but the system is so bonkers it is still positive and measurable – this is why they have chosen the judicial region they did.

      They are either rolling the dice because the expected outcome is favourable or they are planning to offer a settlement that is so “cheap” that Valve will simply swallow it.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Benratha says:

    Ooh!
    Maybe BT can then sue Microsoft for pinching that computer-thingy that Tommy Flowers made in his spare time up at Dollis Hill?

  11. a very affectionate parrot says:

    Why on earth to BT even exist anymore? Just to charge obscene rates for line rental and desperately stay afloat through frivolous litigation?

    • ohminus says:

      You might want to do your homework and find out that BT do much more than line rental these days.

      • a very affectionate parrot says:

        They have their fingers in many pies but line rental is the main thing keeping them afloat while they piss money away on trying to be a sports broadcaster or whatever other bullshit they’re attempting now.

      • Sarfrin says:

        Patent trolling, for example. Boom!

    • a very affectionate parrot says:

      Oh and making infuriatingly smarmy commercials starring mid 90s gender stereotyped ‘stoodents’. And deciding they should be a media company instead of a telecommunications company. What utter fuckers.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      BT exist because they basically own all the phone lines in the UK (this is a bit of a simplification). This means that most households in the UK end up paying them for something, whether that’s an actual phone service, or via slightly higher DSL charges because your ISP has to rent the cables between you and them from OpenReach (still part of BT).

  12. Chizu says:

    So what about Sony’s PSN, Microsofts XBox Live and something like EA’s Origin. Dont they all do mostly the same things as steam. Are BT going after them next?

  13. Wisq says:

    Nice of them to keep quiet about this for thirteen years until Steam became a big enough target to be worth suing. Typical submarine patent bullshit (despite the filing date) — if they really cared about keeping their invention to themselves and didn’t just want to sue people, they’d have told them a lot earlier.

    And yeah, they’ve pretty much described the entire internet with that set of patents. Many of them may or may have had prior art. All of them were obvious and have been reinvented countless times.

    Hopefully, someday, someone — be it the US themselves, or just the rest of the world — will decide to ignore and throw out the entire US patent library, because it’s too full of garbage like this to be useful to anyone any more.

    • Babymech says:

      1) The patents have been public for at least 13 years. 2) They claim to have already informed Valve on numerous occasions. 3) They used some of these patents to sue Google in 2011 which Valve must have been aware of.

      The problem is that the patents exist at all, not necessarily in BT’s use of those patents.

      • unacom says:

        Well, if they have informed Valve via their customer support, then I might have an idea why Valve have flat-out ignored their input…

    • Sin Vega says:

      Nice of them to keep quiet about this for thirteen years until Steam became a big enough target to be worth suing.

      To be fair, if you started out on BT dialup, thirteen years was about average for establishing a connection.

  14. Slazia says:

    I hope somehow this blows up in BT’s face and the organization is split up and sold for parts to people who know what technology from this century looks like.

  15. Christo4 says:

    If you can file patents on these types of things, which are basically behaviors that someone has to take, then i’ll also file a patent on filing patent infringement lawsuits for software.

  16. Simon_Scott says:

    Just like old times…

    link to zdnet.com

  17. Sleepery says:

    Ah, BT. Worst company I ever worked for.

    • Horg says:

      2nd worst customer service i’ve ever had to deal with. Their retained technicians, not the contract workers, are generally superb though.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        After having dealt with BT’s “customer service” I can’t believe there is a company keeping them off the no.1 spot.

        • Horg says:

          Scan.co.uk. They not only refused to replace a broken graphics card they sold me, stone walling me for over 2 months, but once of their agents eventually got abusive over the phone and accused me of sending them a dud card from e-bay to scam them. It took a few weeks but with some help from my lawyer brother and the citizens advice bureau, we put together a successful small claims case and they sent a working replacement without contest. Nothing BT have done comes close to being accused of fraud by a company breaking the law and holding your money hostage.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            I had it easy with Scan but that’s probably because it was a £50 SSD drive.

            After putting a complaint through Ofcom they told BT I was allowed to terminate my contract early and that they had to refund me all of the money they took from me whilst not providing a service.

            The cheque I got was for a lot less than they owed me. Worked it out that even though they terminated my contract they didn’t refund me my line rental that I had paid in advance (pay a year up front to get a discounted rate). Rang them up to complain and got told over the phone that they only had to refund me for the period where no services had been provided. As I had terminated my contract I wasn’t entitled to a refund for anything after that.

            Straight after that call was another call to Ofcom who got me the rest of my money.

        • unacom says:

          I´d unhesitantly post and defend Deutsche Telekom as undisputed No.1. Full Stop.

          • davrieb says:

            Ha, nice that you’ve essentially picked the German equivalent of BT.

  18. Creeping Death says:

    I hope BT doesnt get a fucking penny from this. Such a dreadful company.

    Although… if they do get money maybe then they could finally refund me for the year of line rental and internet they never fucking supplied for me but were happy to charge for..

    • Slazia says:

      To be honest, their connections are so slow you’d hardly know the difference.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Good luck with that. It took me seven months, a Citizen’s Advice Bureau case and TWO (both successful) Ofcom complaints before I got my money back.

  19. DoktorV says:

    Delaware is a popular choice for corporate legal residences because it has very thorough corporate law. Their laws are only moderately favorable in terms of taxes and regulations, but they leave almost no gaps or legal blind spots, which is why even some other states use Delaware’s corporate law. Delaware’s reputation for corporate sleaze is thus not entirely deserved – such activity always makes people suspect something unethical is happening, but in this case it’s mostly not true.
    However, if I understand properly, Delaware offers more privacy protection to corporation owners/founders than most other states, which is partially why people who want to conceal their motives may want to flock there. There is something else that is afoot in Delaware – I think I read the story through a Propublica affiliate, but I can’t remember exactly which news organization did the investigation. The clerks at the corporate registration offices in Delaware supposedly have a reputation for being very sloppy. If I remember properly, a newspaper did an investigation where they registered new corporations in Delaware 100 times, and in more than 90 cases they were not asked to present ID or provide their names on the forms, only the corporate information. So, if true, that would mean corporations with certain organizational setups could exist as a legal entity without any recorded link to any real people who could be held accountable for the corporation’s actions. Now, there would be other ways to work out who was running it, tracking money and so on, but it could be a pretty substantial obstacle.
    So, Delaware (probably) isn’t deliberately creating an environment friendly to corporate abuse, it’s just that their system appears to be not as good as they think it is.

    • peterlawford says:

      None of that actually matters though because Delaware law is not involved in this case. Patent law is entirely Federal and Federal courts have exclusive jusrisdiction.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Historically Delaware was second only to the East District court for plaintiff win rates, pay outs and road blocks put in front of defendants.

      That has changed a bit in the past few years but BT probably couldn’t get into the Texas jurisdiction.

  20. peterlawford says:

    First of all. This is a Federal issue and BT wants it tried in District Court in Delaware for no discernable reason. There’s no reason that a forum non conveniens motion should not be granted because Steam is a Washington Corporation that’s where its employees (who would presumably be called on to testify) are located.

    Second, there’s a high chance that these patents are going to be invalidated. They’re very general, the claims are over-broad, and there’s every reason to suspect that prior art exists.

    And finally I have no idea why they want a jury trial because they’re a foreign corporation suing an American one. Of course, Valve would likely want one anyway for that reason, but there’s no reason bring it up themselves.

    I can only imagine they want to intimidate Valve into settling, but since Valve is a closely held corporation and its owners are some very stubborn people I don’t think that’s going to work.

    I’m very interested in reading Valve’s response.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      The East District court set a precedent with the Kraft cheese patent case that as long as at least 2% of the business is done in that state the district court can block any attempt to move the case to a different state.

      • peterlawford says:

        The can if they want to. But it’s discretionary anyway. Just because a court has personal jurisdiction they don’t have to exercise it if they think there’s a better court for the case to be tried in. And Washington is clearly better, both because it’s close to the defendant and because it’s in the 9th Circuit which has a lot of experience with software patents.

        Of course BT doesn’t want that to happen because the trend is for software patents to be held invalid in the 9th Circuit. But there’s no reason it shouldn’t happen. I don’t think most courts approve of forum shopping, or unnecessarily adding to their case load.

  21. PHPH says:

    Delaware won the race to the bottom. Honestly, even legal scholars aren’t sure how or why they won that race. That doesn’t even matter anymore — there’s no longer a contest. Overall, I think more than half of all corporations in the US are incorporated in Delaware, with something like 70% of all large corporations. At this point, companies incorporate in Delaware largely because everyone else does.

    In the US, the corporate laws of the state you incorporate in have power over your corporation, even if your primary place of business is elsewhere.

    Delaware has some of the most technically competent judges and lawyers in the area of corporate law, and they have, by far, the most well-developed case and common law in corporate law, which also makes it attractive for corporations – particularly larger ones.

    • PHPH says:

      NOT THAT ANY OF THAT REALLY MATTERS, THOUGH.

      This is a patent case, which means federal courts will litigate it, and Valve is incorporated in Washington anyway.

  22. Solidstate89 says:

    I’m sure this’ll surprise no one, but all of those myths about Delaware are completely true. There’s a reason why basically no prominent Americans were discovered during the Panama Papers leak several months ago – and that’s because we already have an onshore tax haven in Delaware.

    However, I’m still surprised to see the lawsuit happen in Delaware, because the patent troll heaven of the U.S. is the Eastern District of Texas courthouse. More patent infringement cases are filed there than anywhere else in the entire country.

    Despite Delaware’s tax haven status, I’m surprised to see them being used for a software patent case.

  23. aircool says:

    BT… how I despise having to pay them for the best quality broadband. It’s an absolute rip off, but hey, they own the fiber and won’t let anyone else play unless they offer lower speeds and bandwidth.

    This is BT, who’s customer service is so bad that you can’t find a telephone number to contact them about faults (what part of British Telecommunications don’t they understand), and who direct you to websites if you’re having problems with your internet connection.

    Do you want to know how much I hate having to talk to one of their ‘support staff’? My email hasn’t been working for almost three months… that’s how much I don’t want to talk to them. Who knows what important stuff is sitting in my inbox, but I can’t do it. I can’t talk to their dreadful support staff. I’m starting to cry just by thinking about it.

    …and don’t get me started on the football. Thank fuck for Kodi.

    • Horg says:

      If you need to get through to BT customer support, use BT web chat. It’s much harder to customer service to give you a run around if there’s a text log of your entire conversation. The phone staff are performance tested partially on how fast they end your call. Resolving your issue isn’t on their priority list. The web chat staff are much more likely to solve your problem, just don’t let them control the conversation. Keep stating what you need fixing until they take action.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Oh recently had some fun times with BT, a couple of months ago I online ordered fiber to the place I was about to move into, got the date so I had internet by the time I moved in.

      Unfortunately BT decided to cancel the broadband order 3 days later for no discernible reason, which was annoying enough in it’s own right, but to top it off they didn’t tell me it got canceled, no email, no call (actually got a call 1 month later after I had reordered) I only noticed a few days later because I was looking over my accounts and noticed they had refunded me money.

      Tried to do web chat top see wtf was up, just passed me to 3 different people where i kept answering the same damn questions, then got put onto a sales person and had to reorder.

      Seriously, government should have broken up this swollen pile of horseshit ages ago then smashed the constituent bits into powder.

      Ugh, worst thing was having no choice, them or sky and sky was far more expensive.

  24. Karyogon says:

    What the. I really really hope Steam won’t go the ‘easy’ route and settle, but instead fight in order not to set some absurd legal precedent.

  25. snv says:

    These patents describe almost any online service.

    There should be consequenses for patent offices accepting these trivialities. And heavy fines for trolls.
    Or rather just get rid of the whole system as it is too broken.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Serrit says:

    “Smith Smith”

    Ah is that the true name of the entity known sometimes as “Adam” and sometimes as “Graham”?

  27. AimHere says:

    One thing I want to know is *why* BT are initiating patent aggression against Valve. BT hasn’t been in the game business since about 1989, and as far as I know they’re not in the internet storefront business either.

    Valve aren’t laying any fibre or getting into telephony either. BT and Valve aren’t in the same market, so why would BT need to clobber Valve like this? What do they think they’ll gain? The money they can squeeze out of Valve will likely be a rounding error in BT’s balance sheet.

    My best guess is that this is a test for a way of attacking net neutrality. BT wants some kind of compensation from Valve for all that Steam traffic going on over it’s wires, and, since it can’t just throw a bill at Valve under pain of throttling (the latest news from the EU on net neutrality stymies that), it’s using the patent trolling as the attack vector.

    The other alternative is that this is a test case to set a precedent before (relative) smallfry before BT goes onto bigger fish like Facebook or Skype to pick up real money. Valve is relatively defenceless here, since most (but not quite all) of their patents are in things that BT has no interest in, so they can’t retalitate very hard.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Valve is likely a pittance of data traffic for ISPs. A big release game is about 20-40GB, and indie title or older title can often be less than a gig. You’ll then play those for a week to a month.

      A HD episode on Netflix is about a gig on its own. People easily binge watch two or three episodes a night. That’s easy 20GB a week for one show. That’s also not taking into account any day time viewing which is normal if you have kids.

      Valve’s average upload stream is not going to be that high compared to the big targets like YouTube and Netflix.

  28. jtucker says:

    BT

    Here’s my BT story.
    I’m almost 50 and up until 2 years ago I’d always been with BT.
    Then my 20mbit download speed was down to about 1mbit and my landline was also having problems.
    I’m not at programmer level but have used computers since the Spectrum days, so I know a little bit about them.
    I checked everything I could on my end and could not find the problem. When I talked to them I said I imagine the problem is somewhere outside between the exchange and the cable just ouside my flat which carries my connection.
    This first call resulted in an appointment where nobody turned up in the end. The 2nd and 3rd calls resulted in BT “engineers” coming in, and for the 2nd call rewiring the box which receives the cable from outside and the 3rd call rewiring the BT socket. None of this fixed the problem. I was telling them all this time that they shouldn’t be searching for the problem inside my flat.
    Finally some BT workers came round with ladders and climbed that pole outside. One of them then knocked on my door and told them that the cable for my flat that connects to the pole was hanging on by a few strands of copper. They fixed it and that fixed my connection.
    When my next bill arrived it was £200 more than usual. I said that I thought that charging me for work outside my flat sounded crazy. I was told that they were not charging me for the outside work but for the work of rewiring my BT socket! So they wanted to charge for work that didn’t fix the problem! I told them this, tried to take it further but they wouldn’t back down. I’d been with BT for years. I ditched them and, ironically, signed up with Plusnet. Ironic because I believe BT own Plusnet. I get the same 20mbit download speed. Same upload speed. If it wasn’t for this £200 charge I wouldn’t of left BT and they would still be getting my money. It was the only problem I’d ever had with BT. I’m still paying this debt £10 monthly. Should be finished end of this year.
    What I do like about Plusnet is when I do phone them, rarely, I get somebody who sounds like English is their mother tongue. I get the impression they are based in the UK. You can use words which are slang for example. I’m not racist at all. I’ve grown surrounded by people from different cultures and countries. But if I call Plusnet the phone calls are over in a few minutes with any problem I had now solved. But those calls I had to make to BT (India) were nightmares. Long nightmares, and I know how to speak to people for whom English isn’t their mother tongue. Keeping the words simple and found in English language education for example. An extreme example would be don’t say something like Boaty Mcboatface! I’ve lived in Europe and know another language myself.

    tl;dr – With BT, had a problem with phone and broadband speed. BT charged me £200 for work done trying to fix the problem. The work done didn’t fix the problem. I told them but they wouldn’t drop the £200 charge.

    • Sleepy Will says:

      Oh Lord, I would not have paid them!

      The worst they could do is sent you (or have a debt collection agency send you) letters threatening court. Ignore them – and if (which they won’t) they do actually stump up the (more than £200) for the small claim (which they wouldn’t have been allowed to add to their claim) then you get to tell a judge why you’re not paying and enjoy the easiest victory court has ever seen.

      • Horg says:

        It’s better to not ignore bailiffs. Unless they have a court judgement against you, they cannot legally do anything to you or your property. This includes harassing / threatening you. If a bailiff company starts to harass you over a debt you dispute, call them and tell them the debt is contested, you are making records of all correspondence between you and the bailiff, and further demands for payment will be treated as harassment. If they don’t back off, you have a case against them.

    • Ravenine says:

      Except you are racist. English is “not my mother tongue”, and I’d bet my last cent that I speak it far better than you ever will. Both I and a great many others, in fact.

      • Iamblichos says:

        How is noting an inability to communicate in the primary language of customer service for a company racist? I can’t speak Swedish; if I was hired by a company in Sweden to provide Swedish tech support, they wouldn’t be “racist” for complaining that I only seemed to know a few phrases…

      • Poison_Berrie says:

        I don’t think he’s complaining about someone not having English as their mother tongue, so much as their English customer service providing that service in very poor English.

        Imagine a school hiring a French teacher, who can barely speak French.

  29. xfstef says:

    How the F are those patents!??! It’s like patenting “breathing air in / out”.
    This is a clear sign of our society being a joke and democracy dead. Software should never be patent-able.

  30. Haldurson says:

    Out of curiosity, I looked up BT on Wikipedia. For more details, I suggest reading the article yourself:
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    One story there is about an earlier patent lawsuit they had against Prodigy for their use of Hyperlink technology (if you were born before the Internet took off, you would remember them as one of a few companies offering a pre-World Wide Web internet interface, forums, games, and other content). They lost the case.

    They also were blamed for allowing a Chinese company to infiltrate British National security.

    There’s more, so check it out. But those stood out to me.

  31. doublet30 says:

    First of all, the BT patents in question are not legal and here is why….

    First off, US patent law requires a machine design to be considered an invention. Software is not a machine design because it is made up of code. The next quests if there is any copyright infringement or trademark and artwork infringement. As far as the code goes, BT obviously doesn’t have it and Valve wrote their software in house and filed the gaps with legaly used open source software…. Specifically Debian Linux for their Steam OS platform. BT would have to pdrive in court that they deliberately and without a doubt used their code to achieve the results to constitute as a software patent violation in the US. And this is hard to prove because in many programming languages, there is only so many ways to code a function to produce a result and this same function could have been written almost identical by another software engineer. I professionally write software and I have to internally audit my code just in case some company claims infringement. But if BT wins the case, that would set a precedent of patents on an idea that produce a generic result. Again, my most downloaded title is a Linux Antivirus front-end and Internet security front-end. If that was the case, some company XYZ could claim patent infringement because they have a patent that describes an ability to scan data for malware regardless of the engine used, algorithm, or signature database type. In any case, all Antivirus software vendors woube out if business or paying royalties if that happened. Valve will win the case just on the validity of the claim not being able to be proved. Here is a link to some legal references. And click on the links to the sources, there are official US government sources stating patent and copyright law in the links too.

    link to ipwatchdog.com

    link to en.m.wikipedia.org

    • doublet30 says:

      Excuse the typos, I typed all that on a tiny phone keyboard and the autocorrect is not being kind today

  32. Jambe says:

    Stallman is a weird character, but I’m agreeing with him more and more as I age (and as patent trolling stories become ever-commoner and evermore egregious). Fuck this nonsense.

    A question for everyone: is there a website which tracks active litigation and sends you an email when developments occur?