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British Telecom, that multinational communications firm born over 150 years ago as the world's first public telegraph company, has filed a lawsuit against Valve alleging that the Steam operator is infringing on four of BT's communications-related patents.
The complaint (dug up and deconstructed by Rock Paper Shotgun), filed last month in the U.S. District Court of Delaware, is worth reading -- it alleges that Valve is guilty of "continued willful infringement" of four BT patents after BT put Valve on notice last October.
What's interesting here (beyond the fact that both BT and Valve have been in business long enough that you'd think they'd have sorted some of this out before now) is that the patents in question, at least as spelled out in the complaint, seem broad enough to encompass a variety of services.
For example, consider the Gittens Patent, which BT claims is being infringed because "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."
In the legal filing BT describes the Gittens Patent, which it claims to have patented in the U.S. in 2003, thusly:
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 demand.
BT claims it first notified Valve that the game company was infringing on BT patents last October, and when BT received no response it claims to have further warned Valve on multiple occasions before taking legal action. Now, it's calling for a trial by jury and seeks damages for Valve's alleged "willful and deliberate" infringement of its patents.
Gamasutra has reached out to Valve representatives for confirmation and further comment on these details, and has yet to receive a response.