British Telecom, a multinational telecommunications company based in the UK, is suing Valve for using technologies it claims to have invented. According to BT, Valve is infringing its patents on "a broad range of products and services" including "Steam Library, Steam Chat, Steam Messaging, and Steam Broadcasting."
In the suit filed, BT asserts that Valve has infringed four patents. The first of these is the Gittins Patent, which "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."
Essentially, it is claiming that by delivering games and video from outside sources to users through the Steam service, it is infringing the patent. The second patent, called the Newton Patent, pertains to delivering messages "comprised of information and data parts to an intended audience in a reliable and predictable manner."
It continues: "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."BT claims the Beddus Patent has also been infringed because Valve provides its users 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," it explains.Finally, with the Buckley Patent, BT asserts Valve has infringed on technology allowing "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."
BT's patents seem to claim ownership over technologies that are core to services beyond Valve's Steam platform. YouTube, Twitch, Blizzard's Battle.net platform, Apple's App Store, and various other modern gaming and VOD services all provide very similar services. It is unclear whether BT also intends to pursue these companies.
BT claims that it has been has been trying to contact Valve since October, 2015.
"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."
It added: "Neither Valve's General Counsel, nor anyone else at Valve, responded to BT’s October 8, 2015 letter. "