Game Controller Lawsuit is the First Patent Infringement Case to Conclude Virtually
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
The first ever fully remote patent infringement jury trial recently concluded, resulting in a $4 million verdict for Ironburg Inventions over stolen video game controller features.
Ironburg Inventions recently sought damages over patent infringement of a certain video game controller feature later licensed by Microsoft for its XBox Elite controllers. When video game developer Valve launched a line of “Steam Controllers” with the patented feature, Ironburg set out to correct the infringement, a process which concluded in late January of 2021.
Ironburg’s patent applied to paddles on the back of the controller which allowed for ease of access for all gamers.
Video game controllers are always being improved, and one of the challenges control designers face is making sure that every feature is accessible to every gamer. If a gamer’s hands or fingers are too small or too large to properly utilize features of the controller, that represents a significant group of customers who are likely to be unsatisfied with the remote. Ironburg solved one of these accessibility issues by inventing rear paddles that attach to the back of the controller pad that can be operated by the middle fingers. Some have argued that this new control feature is revolutionary for gameplay.
Valve argued that their Steam Controllers did not violate Ironburg’s patent.
Ironburg alleges that when the Steam Controller was first displayed as a prototype at a consumer technology trade show, they issued a patent infringement warning to the game developer, who chose to produce the controller regardless. Jurors for the case were reportedly sent Steam Controllers to examine and compare with the graphics and diagrams submitted with Ironburg’s patent. Despite Valve’s vehement insistence that they did not infringe on Ironburg’s patent, jurors found that the video game developer had committed willful infringement, resulting in a $4 million verdict requiring Valve to compensate the patent owner.
Courts across the country have been scrambling to adjust to remote and restricted jury trials.
As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, jury trials have faced significant changes in regard to their operation. While some jury trials have more recently been conducted in person again with the addition of strict safety measures, many courts are continuing to opt for virtual operation. Virtual jury trials provide a safe way for important cases to be heard before a judge and jury, even if they do present certain technological and jury selection challenges, as each jury member is required to have internet-capable technology with a reliable connection.
Ironburg’s case is the first and likely not the last patent infringement lawsuit to be conducted and concluded fully remotely.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many jury trials were postponed as officials scrambled to find a safe means of conducting traditional courtroom proceedings. Jury trials began to be conducted remotely, primarily over video-conferencing software like Zoom; while other jury trials have been conducted virtually, Ironburg’s case is the first patent infringement lawsuit to be conducted and concluded fully remotely. As the pandemic continues, it seems highly likely that the new means of operation instituted for public safety will continue into the future, perhaps with some adjustments. However, the convenience and safety provided by virtual court proceedings are two benefits the country is unlikely to take for granted in the near and possibly even far future.